The Kings acquired defenseman Keaton Ellerby from the Florida Panthers on Feb. 8 almost out of desperation, after they had lost defensemen Matt Greene (back surgery) and Willie Mitchell (knee surgery) for extended periods of time and before they lost Alec Martinez to an upper-body injury.
Martinez missed eight games and is scheduled to play Monday against Nashville, the first of the three injured defensemen to return. Ellerby will keep his spot in the lineup and instead, Davis Drewiske will sit out.
Ellerby, 24, has proved a good find — especially for the modest price of a fifth-round pick in the 2013 entry draft. The Kings like his size — 6-foot-5 and 221 pounds — and he has averaged 15 minutes and 28 seconds’ ice time in 10 games.
“He’s been fine,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said after the team’s morning skate in El Segundo. “You know what, it’s sort of exactly what we talked about when we got him. He’s a big kid that’s mobile and so it’s just the next part… all the execution things.”
Ellerby has had some trouble against speedy teams but Sutter has liked the way he has adjusted and his efforts to elevate his game.
“He came in and probably played on adrenaline, played really good the first three games and then we went on the Chicago-Edmonton-Calgary [trip] and he struggled,” Sutter said. “Since then he’s been better again. He’s a boy. He’s a young guy. Quite honestly you put Marty back in, Marty’s a young guy, too. He was playing too many minutes early. He’s better off in your third pair.”
Ellerby acknowledged that going from the East to the West “has definitely been a little bit of a learning curve, for sure.” He added, “In the East, it’s more of a run-and-gun, high-scoring, just fast paced. You see more high-scoring games out East than you do out here.
“Here, it’s like old-style, kind of bang and crash and big-bodied guys, tough, physical. There’s huge guys out here. It’s definitely a man’s game out here and you’ve got to be prepared every night for a 1-0 or a 2-1 game. It’s just more of a grind-it-out kind of style, I think.”
But he said he enjoys the added physicality and feels right at home, since he grew up in western Canada and played in the Western Hockey League. He’s from Strathmore, near Calgary.
“I’m kind of used to that. I got away from it a little bit, being out East for so long, but I definitely enjoy the Western style of play,” he said.