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Prust wants to reach milestone, make Kings roster

Veteran forward set on getting to 500 games if PTO leads to NHL return

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

MONTREAL -- Brandon Prust says he's deeply appreciative of having played 486 regular-season games for five teams since entering the NHL in 2006-07.

Now, the 33-year-old forward is set on reaching 500, with the Los Angeles Kings this season.

Prust will report to Kings training camp in September on a professional tryout, hoping to make their roster.

"I was planning on sticking around home (in London, Ontario) all summer, pretty sure I could get a tryout somewhere," Prust said Wednesday, heading into an arena to shoot a few pucks.

"That was going to be my goal, to get to another NHL camp that needs a guy like me. The PTO happened pretty quickly with L.A., which was good."

Prust was on a golf course in Michigan about a month ago when he received a call from Kings player assistance director Brantt Myhres, an old friend who'd just come out of a meeting with Los Angeles general manager Rob Blake.

"Brantt asked what I'd think of coming out on a PTO and I told him I thought it would be pretty sweet," Prust said. "He said there were some changes in L.A. and they see me fitting in the lineup if I come to camp and put on a good show."

Prust skipped the next couple of holes that day to make a few calls and had his agent, Claude Lemieux, get the wheels quickly in motion.

It was the first of two special golf-course moments Prust enjoyed last month. On July 29, closer to home, he married his longtime girlfriend, Maripier Morin, a high-profile television star in her native province of Quebec.

His new wife, Prust suggested of the famously teary Morin, was a human water hazard by day's end.

"She had the sprinkler system going," he said with a laugh.

Prust hasn't played an NHL game since Jan. 19, 2016, with the Vancouver Canucks, finishing with seven points (one goal, six assists) in 35 games in 2015-16. A damaged ankle that required surgery in May torpedoed his season, his lingering recovery from the October injury and perhaps his premature return putting him at odds with Canucks management.

Vancouver placed Prust on waivers on Feb. 2, 2016, and he played nine games for Utica in the American Hockey League before being shut down in a mutual agreement a month later.

With the Calgary Flames (twice), Phoenix Coyotes, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Canucks, Prust has 115 points (40 goals, 75 assists) with a scraped-knuckles 1,036 penalty minutes.

An undrafted junior walk-on with London of the Ontario Hockey League in 2002, Prust has scrapped for every second of ice time on every team he's played on. He is proud of the role he's played at every level, defending teammates against often much larger opponents.

Prust was a member of London's 2005 Memorial Cup-winning team, a major-junior championship won against Sidney Crosby and the Rimouski Oceanic.

A year earlier, in his final year of junior eligibility, Prust was selected by the Flames in the third round (No. 70) of the 2004 NHL Draft. From the Flames, he would go on to play for the Coyotes, Calgary again, then the Rangers, Canadiens and Canucks.

Leaving Vancouver at the end of 2015-16, Prust signed a PTO with the Toronto Maple Leafs last fall, having a strong camp but not finding a place on a rookie-laden roster. He stayed in Toronto for a couple months to practice with the team, then in December signed with the Nürmberg Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers of Germany's elite DEL league, scoring eight points (three goals, five assists) with 67 penalty minutes in 29 games.

Europe was a good experience, he says, even with and in part because of the culture shock, and he'd consider returning if things don't work out in Los Angeles next month.

"But my main focus is making the Kings," he said. "I'll take the same approach to L.A. that I had in Toronto. It just didn't end up working out last fall, even though I thought I'd played pretty well. I'll try to do that again."

Now in full training mode, Prust considers his nearly 500 games, a fine body of work for someone who, more than one, have said he didn't have the tools to make it in the NHL.

"I'm grateful and definitely proud of myself," he said. "At some point, you're expecting 1,000 games. That number is not realistic at my age. I'd probably have played 700 by now if I hadn't had the injuries I've had, but that's the game. I'm definitely proud of what I've accomplished and how far I've come but you always want more."

The door has been opened for Prust in Los Angeles. He knows it will be up to him next month, and into October, to barge through it.

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