|Drewiske back in the lineup tonight. |
After games, even after wins, Dustin Brown
would sit quietly at his locker. He was fatigued, yes, after often playing more than 20-minutes of hard hockey, but there seemed to be something more, a sense that Brown was carrying something heavy on his back.
That weight got lifted Wednesday, when Brown broke a streak of 14 consecutive games without a goal by scoring in overtime to beat San Jose.
As team captain, Brown no doubt felt pressure to contribute offensively, and he had to be perplexed by the fact that he regularly led the Kings in shots on goal, and seemed to get quality scoring chances almost every night, but couldn't score.
Coach Terry Murray said he sensed Brown was trying too hard at times.
"I do think he was pressing, absolutely," Murray said. "He's a very intense individual. He really cares about his game and he cares about the team. When you go extended periods of not getting that stat that's important, for forwards in particular, you start to get some snakes running around in your head.
"It's like getting over a putt in the Masters. It's a two-footer and you've got to make it, and you've got all these snakes, these thoughts, in your mind. You start to think crazy things, I think, as a player, when it comes to that time when you're not on top of your game. But you've got to work through it. You've got to deal with it and keep going, and try to do the right things all the time, and it paid off last night. Hopefully it's a breakthrough."
Brown was one of three Kings to break long goal slumps Wednesday. Teddy Purcell's ended at 27 games and Anze Kopitar
's ended at 13 games. Given that all three players are regularly on the Kings' top two lines, it's an understatement to say that Murray would be pleased to see goals start to come in bunches for that trio.
"Sometimes that's all it takes," Murray said. "It's a confidence factor, when you're looking to put pucks in the net. It's a matter of an inch here or there. You're hoping that's the goal that's going to push them through and enable them to get going on a consistent basis now." LINEUP CHANGE
The Kings host Phoenix tonight at STAPLES Center, and Murray said he plans to return defenseman Davis Drewiske
to the lineup and scratch forward Raitis Ivanans.
That will give the Kings seven defensemen and 11 forwards (one fewer than normal).
"I want to let our back end have choices here, with matchups, with minutes played," Murray said. "We ended up with a lot of minutes played (against San Jose), in a couple cases, and this gives us an opportunity to back off on some of those hard minutes. We have confidence in Drewiske. He sat out a couple of games. We have talked to him and hopefully he's ready to get back on page."
Drewiske was a healthy scratch in the previous two games, after Rob Scuderi
returned from his sprained ankle.
Several Kings defensemen logged big minutes against the Sharks. Drew Doughty
played 24 minutes, 42 seconds. Scuderi played 21:40, and Matt Greene
and Sean O'Donnell also were within seconds of 20-minute games.
After one of their biggest wins of the season, over the Western Conference-leading Sharks, the Kings don't have much time for self-congratulation. Tonight's opponent, Phoenix, has won five consecutive games and is likely to start goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who is coming off one of this league-leading four shutouts this season.
Brown didn't need to be reminded of the situation in early November, when the Kings recorded a huge victory over Pittsburgh then, two days later, had one of their worst efforts of the season in a loss to Nashville.
"There was a very similar situation," Brown said. "We beat Pittsburgh, and then against Nashville we didn't come out at all. That's something that we have to remind ourselves about tonight. Obviously beating San Jose is a huge win for us, but at the end of the day, tonight's two points are just as valuable as last night's.
"It's another divisional four-point game, so that's something we have to draw attention to, prior to the game, and make sure we're ready to go."
This is the second of three games against divisional opponents -- the Kings host Dallas on Saturday night -- which is a tough task these days. Entering Thursday, Pacific Division teams occupied four of the top eight spots in the Western Conference. San Jose led, followed by the Kings (fourth), Phoenix (sixth) and Dallas (eighth).