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December Through The Eyes Of Brown

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If April is the cruelest month, as T.S. Eliot once wrote, then December is certainly becoming the kindest month in the eyes of Kings winger Dustin Brown.

Through 12 games this month, Brown has seven goals and 12 assists, and Brown has had multi-point efforts in seven of those 12 games. The Kings' captain now leads the team in goals (16) and is second on the team with 33 points in 35 games.

Brown's scoring potential has always been present, but it has rarely been consistent. Brown raised the bar for himself in 2007-08 when, at age 23, he totaled 33 goals, but he totaled only 24 goals in 2008-09 and last season and failed to crack 60 points.

Now, in a first-line role alongside center Anze Kopitar -- who is having his own white-hot December, with seven goals and 10 assists -- Brown is providing big offense.

Brown had two goals on Monday night in San Jose, including the highlight-reel goal late in the third period when he skated under an 80-foot lob pass from Kopitar, controlled the puck and beat goalie Antti Niemi with a deft backhand move.

``It's the line that really is playing very well,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said Tuesday. ``Brownie can do some things on an individual basis, as we saw last night. We saw it a couple times, just coming down the wing with his speed. When he keeps that power-forward attitude of, outside, get pucks to the net, recovering pucks, getting in on the forecheck, his game is really good.

``I think he falls off of it whenever it gets what I call `cute,' trying to do too much with his 1-on-1 play, trying to beat guys inside of the dots. Everything is shut down and it's very hard for anybody to make a play there. His outside-speed attitude really is effective, and it shows. Every time that it's there in a game, he gets good results.''


Murray said winger Alexei Ponikarovsky, who missed Monday's game with a lower-body injury, received treatment on Tuesday and would attempt to participate in Wednesday's morning skate. The Kings opted not to practice Tuesday, in the middle of two sets of back-to-back games.

Murray said Jonathan Quick, who has recorded shutouts in three of his last six starts, would start in goal Wednesday against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Willie Mitchell, out with a lower-body injury, has been cleared for conditioning skating, Murray said. Mitchell stayed in Los Angeles this week to do rehabilitation work.


Murray referred to the 80-foot Kopitar-to-Brown pass, which led to the Kings' fourth goal against the Sharks, as a ``moon shot,'' and said he had only seen the play accomplished one other time in his 40-plus years as a player and coach.

Murray recalled the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, when he coached the Philadelphia Flyers against the New York Rangers. Murray said Eric Lindros fed a similar pass to Kevin Haller that led to an overtime goal. That was in Game 2 of the series, and the Flyers went on to a four-game sweep of the Rangers.

``Same play, almost from the same place,'' Murray said. ``(Lindros) flipped it over the top to Kevin Haller in an overtime game, and Haller went in on a breakaway and top-shelfed it. Exactly the same look. But that's the only other time that I've ever been involved in a game that I've seen it. It's a hell of a play. And that puck landed flat.''


Murray had strong praise for the efforts of all his defensemen after Monday's 4-0 victory over San Jose, and the game might have been the best of the season for Jack Johnson.

Johnson had one assist -- giving him a four-game point streak -- and had a team-high five blocked shots. Johnson also had a plus-3 rating and has a plus-9 rating in his last six games. Most recently, Johnson has been in a high-profile pairing with Drew Doughty.

``Tremendous,'' Murray said of Johnson's game against San Jose. ``He had some good games in the early part of the year, and then he really hit a black hole there for a while, where he was minus at the end of the day but really not involved in the play. There were a couple games when he was just stepping onto the ice, on a line change, and it was, `Minus-3, minus-3, minus-3.'

``He is really playing well, though. He got it back, and he had an excellent game last night. Puck movement, his coverage, his reads, three-on-three, the switches down low, it's all becoming instinctive. The hesitation is starting to leave his game. When you start to close fast, and the puck is arriving and you're anticipating, you can become a great player.''


Monday was also a good night for the young defensive pairing of Davis Drewiske and Alec Martinez. Drewiske, 26, and Martinez, 23, have only 109 games of NHL experience between them, but played with poise at both ends against the Sharks.

Put together this week last week, when Matt Greene returned to the lineup, the puck-moving Martinez and the stay-at-home Drewiske have earned praise from Murray.

``A lot of composure, lots of awareness,'' Murray said. ``I think they have good chemistry starting to develop, and there's good communication going on there. It just simplifies the game and takes a lot of pressure off, when you have a lot of yelling and shouting for each other. They were making good plays. When you can do that under pressure, find the open guy, it sure opens up a lot for the line to attack and make good things happen.

``And they're playing good defensively, too. Drewiske is using his body well. He's fronting his man going to the net very well. Good things happen because of doing little things the right way.''

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