Defenseman Robyn Regehr’s face is a road map of the Kings’ playoff series against the St. Louis Blues.
His nose, broken in Game 1 when he was hit in the face twice by David Backes’ skate boot, was again swollen on Friday because he rebroke it in Wednesday's Game 5 when he took a stick in the face from T.J. Oshie. His ear has a faint bruise, too, a souvenir of an up-close-and-personal encounter with an errant puck a few days ago.
He didn’t miss more than a few minutes to damage control for any of these injuries. Of course he didn’t -- he’s a hockey player.
And an increasingly valuable member of the Kings’ defense corps.
The Kings wouldn’t be in position to clinch their first-round playoff series Friday night in Game 6 at Staples Center if not for the grit and steady defensive play of Regehr, whom they acquired from Buffalo on April 1 for two second-round draft picks. Regehr has been an excellent counterbalance and teacher for defense partner Drew Doughty and has become part of the core four on defense with Doughty, Rob Scuderi and Slava Voynov.
“We said at the time we needed some more experience on the back end, very simple. And it’s showing again in this series,” Coach Darryl Sutter said. “If we didn’t have that experience on the back end, we’d be doing clean-out-locker day.”
Instead, Friday could be celebration day for the Kings, whose nine-game winning streak at Staples Center includes Games 3 and 4 of this series. If a seventh game against the Blues is necessary, it will be played Monday at St. Louis.
Regehr said his broken nose hasn’t given him any breathing problems, as evidenced by his average ice time of 21 minutes and 36 seconds. Among the Kings’ defensemen, only Doughty (29:35) and Scuderi (22:38) average more ice time. Voynov ranks fourth, at 21:17. The series, Regehr said, has been enjoyable for him despite his injuries.
“It’s been great for playoff hockey, typical hockey,” he said. “It’s physical, tight-checking, very tight games. All the games have been one goal and a couple overtime games, but that’s what playoff hockey’s all about.”
Being paired with Doughty has worked well for both players.
Regehr’s game is to stay back and take care of things in the defensive zone, which allows Doughty to use his considerable skating ability and take offensive chances. Doughty can be confident when he takes those chances because Regehr is so dependable.
“He’s got the ability to play a ton of minutes out there, the way he can skate and move the puck,” Regehr said. “And probably the most important thing that says the most about a player is he plays all situations. He’s involved in the power play, five on five. You can play him against any of the lines that an opposition team has and he’s also involved in the penalty killing.
“He’s got a complete game and there’s a lot of responsibility on him for that. He’s a big part of the team and especially the defense corps.”
Regehr, 33, also said he has learned from his 23-year-old teammate.
“Oh yeah, it’s always that way. As a player, it doesn’t matter how young or old you are, you can always learn and adapt,” Regehr said. “The game changes, your teammates change, the way the game is played has been changing, too, if you look back the last 15, 20 years, so it’s always about learning.”
Doughty is gathering tips from Regehr, too. Those lessons go beyond learning when not to stick his nose in and get it broken.
“I learn by the way he plays his defense. He’s hard in the D zone and that’s what I’m kind of trying to evolve my game that way, is to be hard in the D zone and be someone who no forward wants to play against,” Doughty said. “He showed me how to do that. He plays so hard. And I can learn from his leadership qualities he has because I want to be a leader on this team as well.”
Regehr is a good teacher. “He’s definitely tough. I think that’s been his thing his whole career, how tough he is and how hard he plays,” Doughty said.
“And that’s what we love about him. He leads in that category. He’s going to do anything for the team. He’ll block a shot with his face. He plays so hard for us and he cares so much and that’s where his leadership really kicks in.”