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Training Camp Notebook (Sept. 20)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar will start training camp on the same line.

Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar are certainly not strangers. They've been Kings teammates since 2006, they're friends and their lockers are next to each other.

This season, though, Brown and Kopitar might forge a new level of familiarity. They have been put together, along with Ryan Smyth, on the first line in training camp, a move that coach Terry Murray hopes will bring scoring and a hard-nosed attitude.

Brown and Kopitar have played together before, most notably two seasons ago, but the challenge now is twofold. Murray would like to see Kopitar, who had a career-high 34 goals last season, elevate his game further, and would like to see Brown return to prior offensive form, such as when he scored 33 goals in 2007-08.

The line certainly has a chance to work. Last season, Kopitar did his best work when teammates created space and opportunity for him by crowding the front of the net. Brown, who never shies away from physical play, can be a net presence (along with Smyth) for Kopitar and can create his own opportunities.

Justin Williams, who filled the first-line role when healthy last season, moves to the second line with center Jarret Stoll and left winger Scott Parse.

``It will be different,'' Kopitar said. ``Brownie is a little different type of player than Justin was, but I've played with Brownie, so I'm used to him and I know what kind of player he's like, and I know Smytty. Plus we played a few games together last year too, so it's not rocket science. We're going to get the chemistry going and eventually get off to a good start.''

Brown is regularly the Kings' leader in hits and shots on goal, but a sharp scoring touch alluded him in the past two seasons. After the 33-goal burst in 2007-08, Brown has totaled 24 goals in each of his past two seasons. A return to previous form would give the Kings a big boost in their quest for improved 5-on-5 scoring, and having another 30-goal threat on the top line would make things easier for Kopitar, who is establishing himself as an elite NHL center.

Brown, the team captain, now entering his seventh NHL season, said he welcomes the move to the top line.

``I've had conversations with Terry,'' Brown said. ``He kind of let me know a few weeks ago that he was looking to play me there. Me and Kopi played together, and had success, for two years, early in his career. Maybe they're just looking at different line combinations right now. I think that's something they'll probably stick with for a while, at least through training camp maybe, and see how it plays out.''

The Kings had their first training-camp injury, as goalie Erik Ersberg had to leave the morning session on Monday. Murray said Ersberg was struck by a shot on his glove hand during Sunday's practice. Ersberg tried to practice Monday but left the ice after less than an hour.

For now, Ersberg is scheduled to start the Kings' exhibition opener, Wednesday at Colorado, and play the entire game. Murray also said that Jonathan Quick is slated to start Thursday's home game against Phoenix and that Jonathan Bernier would start Thursday's road game against Phoenix.

Williams is expected to move to a second-line role this season, but he retains high expectations as he enters the final season of his contract. Williams missed 33 games due to injury last season but is a two-time former 30-goal scorer with Carolina, and Williams said he believes he can return to that level.

``I’m a player who wants to take a step back in the right direction,'' Williams said. ``I don’t see 30 (goals) as being out of my sights at all. We’ll see. Playing 82 games plus playoffs, playing all of them, is something that I’m putting a huge focus on.'' Williams, who suffered a broken leg last season, said he worked during the summer to regain his speed, and coaches were pleased with Williams' conditioning.

``He looks great, he feels great,'' Murray said. ``Mentally, he’s right on where I’d like him to be, coming into the training camp. He’s hungry to prove to us that he’s back after his serious injury last year. I like the fit where it is right now, and we’ll see how it goes in the training camp.''
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