By Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Dustin Brown set the tone for the Los Angeles Kings for the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His physicality and record-setting play while shorthanded put him in the discussion of the Conn Smythe Trophy.
That pace, it seems, was unrealistic to keep.
Brown has only one assist in five games of the Stanley Cup Final. He was pulled off the top line in Game 5 and played 18:58 minutes of ice time, his fewest since Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the St. Louis Blues. He did not play in the final 3:56. A deadly penalty killer, Brown played only 36 seconds shorthanded.
Injuries at this time of year are as secretly kept as launch codes for missiles, but it's easy to surmise that Brown is banged up to the point where it is significantly hurting his game. If that's the case, he's not telling.
"I don't think I'm any worse than the next guy," Brown said Sunday. "I play a physical game. This is kind of how I feel all year. It's one of those things you deal with day-to-day. It's important on days like today to get what you need."
Brown did say that this series has taken a toll on him like no other this postseason. The New Jersey Devils dished out 43 hits in Game 4 and 34 hits in Game 5. David Clarkson drilled Brown near the boards in Game 5 with one of the heaviest hits of the series.
"For me, personally, it's probably been a more physical series than the previous," Brown said. "I probably was on the receiving end of more hits in this series than any other. I think they've got some big strong defensemen that are good positionally and are in the right areas to make hits. Physicality is not just about hits. It's rubbing you in the corners. They have a three-guys-in-the-corner approach. There's definitely a lot less room out there."
Coach Darryl Sutter mixed up his lines late in Game 5 and promoted Simon Gagne up to the first line and also had him on the third line with Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis. Sutter said he was "just sort of moving those three guys around" and mentioned that "Brownie's spending a lot of energy. You're just trying to watch it."
Sutter, of course, wouldn't reveal any changes for Game 6 on Monday. Brown wasn't certain if the Kings would veer from lines that have been tweaked only once before, when Dustin Penner was put on the second line at the end of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Brown said the changes in Game 5 weren't a surprise.
"At that point, you've got to try and find a spark -- find something that's clicking because we weren't clicking," Brown said. "We didn't have practice today, so I'm not sure what the lines are going to be. But it's a matter of players [having] to adapt to the situation."
If Brown is indeed banged up or just getting contained by New Jersey, the Kings will have to adapt better to not having their captain literally hitting on all cylinders.
One player who has helped offset Brown is Justin Williams, perhaps the most active of the Kings forwards the past two games. Mike Richards acknowledged that New Jersey's forwards seem to be playing better and better. He also agreed with Brown about the physicality.
"You can see the determination on both sides," Richards said. "It's hard-nosed hockey. I've played in New Jersey a lot, being in the East a lot, so I know what kind of style hockey that they bring. We play an impressive style too. It's fun hockey to play in."