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Brown making the most of chance to be core piece again for Kings

Forward getting top-line ice time, has 18 points in 19 games

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown didn't get his groove back overnight.

It only seemed that way.

Brown will tell you that his first inkling that things could be different this season came in the summer when he met with John Stevens, who had been promoted from assistant to coach, replacing Darryl Sutter.

"We had a good long talk about a lot of things, a lot of different topics," Brown said Thursday. "He expected me to be a big part of this team. Like I've said, I always felt I could take more on and he's given me the opportunity."

Brown recognized the new opportunity and embraced the challenge, and has played a far more significant role for the Kings than in recent seasons.

Call it a rebirth or a recasting of his role, but Brown's transformation from bottom-six forward back to core piece is one of the more unexpected stories in the League during the first quarter of the season.

Brown is gratified by the trust Stevens has shown in him. That includes making good on a promise to reunite him on a line with center Anze Kopitar, and the addition of rookie Alex Iafallo to the line has added a savvy puck protector.

"We have a good dialogue," Brown said of Stevens. "I know what he wants from me pretty clearly. And he's also putting me in situations … when you're playing on the first power play and 20 minutes a night, you should be producing."

Video: LAK@ANA: Brown taps in Iafallo's pass for PPG

Brown is second on the Kings with 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 19 games. He's halfway to the 36 points he had in 80 games last season.

"That's probably been the best part, the consistency in my game," Brown said. "That's been the challenging part. The point stuff takes care of itself."

Kings president and Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille pointed out the obvious, that the ups and downs in a long career can affect anyone, even Hall of Famers.

"It's all happened," Robitaille said. "A great player needs to play and Dustin's ice time got cut. His power-play minutes got taken out and you take that out and you're taking out between three to five minutes from a player. Then you're on the bench thinking, and when you start thinking you're not the same player."

This season, Brown is averaging 20:20 of ice time, second among Kings forwards to Kopitar's 22:29.

It's a big bump from the 16:00 per game Brown averaged last season, and the first time he's had more than 20 minutes of ice time since he played 20:10 per game in 2011-12, a season that ended with the Kings raising the Stanley Cup.

After that season, however, his ice time started to dwindle, and his offensive production went with it. Between 2012-13 and 2016-17 he averaged 29.4 points per season in 16:33 of ice time per game. In his first seven NHL seasons, he averaged 50.6. points in 18:45 of ice time.

Video: BUF@LAK: Brown pokes home tough power-play goal

"He hits," Robitaille said. "He drives the net. I think for almost a year or two he was stuck trying. He was trying to do the right thing. He was trying to play the right role with the team. Now he's shown that he can play more minutes. John Stevens showed him some trust and he took it and ran with it."

The Kings, who started 11-2-2, hit their first real speed bump of the season in a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Staples Center on Nov. 9. That started a four-game losing streak (0-4-0) that they'll take into their back-to-back games this weekend, against the Florida Panthers at home Saturday (4 p.m. ET; FS-W, FS-F, NHL.TV) and then against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; ATTSN-RM, FS-W, NHL.TV).

Considering the Golden Knights have pulled within one point of the first-place Kings in the Pacific Division, the game Sunday has taken on a much bigger meaning.

But before that, the Kings will attempt to address their struggles at home.

"It's up to the guys in the room ultimately to be ready to go for Saturday," Brown said. "We can't change anything about [the past] now. The biggest thing is we're giving up more and we're not getting our chances.

"Throughout our lineup we just need to be better. You're going to go through different things. We just have to work through the tough times now."

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