Kings' defensive lineup taking shape; Doughty-O'Donnell still No. 1 pairing

September, 22, 2009

We're getting to that point in the preseason when rosters are cut down and you start to see actual forward line combinations and defensive pairings coming together.

I found it interesting the Kings once again will pair young sophomore star Drew Doughty with veteran Sean O'Donnell in what essentially is the team's top defensive pair. As Kings GM Dean Lombardi told me Monday night from Kansas City, "Anything with Doughty on it is a top pair."

Nothing against O'Donnell, one of the more likable characters in the game, but he's really a fifth or sixth D-man, not a top-pairing guy, especially at 37 years old. But the pair worked well together when an 18-year-old Doughty had a fantastic rookie season in 2008-09, so they'll start 2009-10 together again.

"OD is such a pro," Lombardi told "His presence is key there. He gives the kid a sense of security, not only in terms of somebody trying to take liberties with him and making sure that doesn't happen, but he's a veteran guy who will do little things like tap Drew on the pads and tell him everything is OK. He's the pillar. He provides Doughty something that doesn't necessarily show up on paper."

The second pair is solid, with 22-year-old Jack Johnson alongside Stanley Cup champion and free-agent pickup Rob Scuderi. In this case, opposites attract.

"Jack is like a thoroughbred," Lombardi said. "Offensively and defensively, his instincts are go-go-go. When he played at Michigan, he was almost like a rover, with and without the puck. He's had to make an adjustment here [in the NHL] when to go. Scuderi is exactly that kind of fit we need there; he's totally steady and has a lot of reach. That's what we were looking for on the market, is that type of guy with Jack in mind. So far, it's been a really good pair.

"And Jack has really been good. He's had a couple of highlight-reel plays. He's done some really good things."

Matt Greene is assured of the No. 5 job on the team. Then, it's still a battle for the No. 6 job with Davis Drewiske, 24, Alec Martinez, 22, Thomas Hickey, 20, Joe Piskula, 25 and Andrew Campbell, 21, still in camp. Lombardi didn't want to tip his hand, but I believe it's a three-way battle between Drewiske, Martinez and Hickey, the team's 2007 first-round draft pick. Long term, Campbell could be a possible fit with Doughty, but I think he might head back to the AHL for more seasoning.

I also think if the Kings are indeed on the rise as many of us believe they are, Lombardi will look to add a D-man before the March 3 trade deadline.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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