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Brown persevered to reach cusp of 1,000 games with Kings

Los Angeles forward will become 30th in NHL history to reach milestone playing for one franchise

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown knew playing in 1,000 NHL games was something within his reach. 

He just wasn't so sure he'd get there with the Kings.

With his ice time and scoring output having diminished the previous four seasons in Los Angeles, and having been left unprotected in the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21, Brown believed there was a chance he would leave the only NHL organization he had known in order to keep playing in the League.

"That was definitely a thought, especially with expansion," Brown said. "You didn't know. It's such an unknown going into it. But I think everything happens for a reason. Lot of things changed this summer … I think ultimately we've all had a second life here."

The Vegas Golden Knights passed on taking Brown, 33, and it has been to his and the Kings' good fortune. When he takes the ice against the Colorado Avalanche at Staples Center on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; FS-W, ALT, NHL.TV), he'll become the 317th player to appear in 1,000 NHL games. He'll also become the 30th in League history to play 1,000 games and spend his career with one franchise, and second to do it for the Kings (forward Dave Taylor, 1,111 games). 

Video: OTT@LAK: Brown redirects Folin's shot past Condon

Brown will become the fourth active player to achieve such a milestone; center Henrik Sedin (1,283 games) and forward Daniel Sedin (1,260) each has done it with the Vancouver Canucks, and forward Henrik Zetterberg (1,034) has done it with the Detroit Red Wings.

Brown is again playing a big role with Los Angeles; he's second on the Kings with 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in 35 games and has been a steady presence on the top line alongside center Anze Kopitar, and on the first power-play unit.

He's also averaging 19:49 of ice time per game, a major jump from the 16:08 he had been averaging the previous four seasons.

The uptick in ice time, and with it scoring output, partly is a result of the show of faith put in Brown by coach John Stevens, who was promoted from assistant to replace Darryl Sutter on April 23.

During the summer, Stevens told Brown he would get the chance to start training camp on a line with Kopitar, but that it was up to him to do enough to stay there.

"You look at the course of his career, he's been an all-situation player," Stevens said. "He's been a very effective penalty killer, been a really good net-front guy on the power play. I think Brown just redefined his game. Any good player has an identity, and Brown just really reminded himself what his identity is."

Part of that identity is using his 6-foot, 216-pound frame to be an unmovable force in front of the opposing goaltender.

Video: ANA@LAK: Brown ties the game late with put-back goal

"He understands where his goals come from," Kings general manager Rob Blake said. "They come from 10 feet of the net all the time. I credit John Stevens a little bit for putting the emphasis back on Dustin this summer, and saying, 'You're going to be an important part of this team, you're going to play with Kopitar, you're going to be net-front.' He's been able to live up to these things this year."

Another part of that identity is coming to work every day ready to play. In the past 13 seasons, Brown has missed 17 games, and has played all 35 games this season.

Since 2005-06, he leads all players with 3,078 hits, 377 more than the second-place player on the list, Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik.

"I think [1,000 games] is just a number," Brown said. "But in saying that, there's only [317] players that have played, and how many players have played in this league? It's product of being pretty durable, pretty productive and finding a way to contribute for a long time for all those players that have done it. … Just trying to get up each day and find a way to get better. That's the key for most guys that do it."

Brown also is depended upon as a leader. He was captain for eight seasons, until the role was passed to Kopitar prior to last season. 

But rather than sulk, Brown has continued to be the same dependable presence.

"He's been great for our group," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "He's not a super-loud guy but he goes out there and plays as hard as he possibly can every night and he's a team-first guy no matter what. He doesn't care if he gets points, he doesn't care if he gets goals, he just wants our team to win and that's all he cares about. 

"He's a great leader on and off the ice for the young guys. All you have to do is watch him play and you'll see his leadership."

Brown sees himself as just a part of a group that changed the course of hockey history in Los Angeles, along with Kopitar, Doughty and goaltender Jonathan Quick, the core of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014.

While Brown might soft-sell his impact, those around him understand how big a role he has played for the Kings, and are relishing him receiving gthe credit that comes with playing 1,000 games.

"At the end of the day he captained two Stanley Cup teams in Los Angeles," Blake said. "No one else has done that. … He's been a big, big part of this franchise." 

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