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January 2, 2011 4:00 pm

Doughty’s fitness a non-issue for Murray

Drew Doughty is leading the Kings in average ice time this season, at 25 minutes, 39 seconds per game. He’s one of nine NHL players this season — all defensemen — to average more than 25 minutes per game, and he’s also the youngest by far. Doughty turned 21 last month, and the New York Rangers’ Marc Staal averages 25:02 at age 23. The six players ahead of Doughty in average ice time have an average age of 28.8. That, alone, should quiet the rather curious suggestion that Doughty is “out of shape,” suggestions presumably fueled by Doughty’s weight issues in junior hockey and the fact that he re-took his fitness test after initially scoring lower than expected. Doughty played nearly 29 minutes last night — sort of like a running back getting 29 carries in a game — and today Terry Murray said he was comfortable with Doughty’s conditioning and with the number of minutes the young defenseman is playing.

MURRAY: “I think he’s in as good of shape as he should be right now, but it’s not as good as he will be as he continues to mature as a man. That will just evolve into a bigger, stronger player. He played a lot of minutes last night. He’s up around 28 minutes, and that’s where we want him to be. Can he handle those minutes? Yeah, sure he can. He’s such a gifted player that when you’re out in those situations, for those many minutes, you just learn how to play the game. You’re not going to be 100-percent intensity. That’s to be expected. You pace yourself at times. As long as your timing is good, away from the puck or going to get pucks with intensity and moving in the right way, those defensemen can play, every game, 30 minutes, 28 minutes, without any problem. We saw (Chris) Pronger over the years here. There’s a style, a way of doing it.

“I’m OK with his conditioning. We do all the skating drills, whenever we have those real hard-work drills. He’s pushing it as hard as anybody, and he’s right there with everybody else. I’m OK. But I know down the road, in several years, he will be a better physical specimen than what he is today.”

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