GLENDALE, Ariz. — Greetings from Jobing.com Arena, where the Kings will face the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night. Ben Scrivens was the first goaltender off the ice at the morning skate, and the first goalie to exit usually starts the game. That would mean Jonathan Quick would face the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday in the second half of this back-to-back sequence, which will end a stretch of three games in four nights.
The lines and defense pairs looked the same as they were for the Kings’ 2-1 shootout victory over Edmonton on Sunday.
I had an interesting chat with team captain Dustin Brown, who has no goals in his last eight games and only two this season, both against Ottawa on Oct. 9. What’s more noteworthy is that his hits-per-game average is dramatically down, a key statistic for a player whose physicality helped create and sustain the Kings’ identity.
Brown has been credited with 25 hits in 12 games, ranking him 63rd in the NHL through Monday’s games. His average is 2.08. Compare that to last season, when he was credited with 156 hits in 46 games (3.39 per game) and ranked eighth in the NHL, and to 2011-12, when he was credited with 293 hits in 82 games (3.57 per game) and ranked second in the league.
Stats don’t always tell the full story, but Brown's hit total means something to Coach Darryl Sutter.
“Yeah, it does, because he’s got to play a certain way to be effective and that’s important,” Sutter said.
Brown, however, said he’s not concerned with the numbers.
“I don’t really look at my hit totals. I would say generally, just based on how the season goes, I probably get more physical as the year goes on,” he said.
That explanation didn’t sit well with Sutter.
“The season’s going on. Twelve games in,” Sutter said.
Brown, who has recently played mostly on the third line with Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis, said he hasn’t been holding back because of his right knee, which he injured last season and still requires a brace, or because he fears disciplinary action from the league. He was suspended two games last April for a hit to the head of Minnesota’s Jason Pominville.
Brown also said the team’s game has changed.
“As a team, we’re much more puck possession now,” he said. “So when you have the puck, it’s a lot harder to hit. There’s games I think when I’m more physical, it’s because we’re chasing the puck more. And then there’s also times just reading the play. I’ve always said my game has evolved from when I was younger, running around a lot more, to trying to read the play a little bit more.”
Center Anze Kopitar, Brown’s frequent linemate in the past, said he believes Brown is lacking some confidence now.
“But he’s our captain. He leads us out there,” Kopitar said. “We do have all the confidence in him to make plays. That’s obviously important for him, that he knows we’ve got his back. That’s always how it’s been around here. We’ve got each other’s back. We play for each other.
“You’re going to go through a little bit of struggles. I’ve certainly been there many times. Everybody had my back so there’s a little bit of comfort there. I’m sure he's going to break through. It's just a matter of time and hopefully tonight.”
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