Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Back in February, when the Los Angeles
Kings hardly resembled the juggernaut that so far has breezed its way through
the Western Conference portion of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the club was
desperate to find improvement.
One of the ways Kings general manager Dean Lombardi chose to boost his team's
fortunes was by acquiring winger Jeff Carter from Columbus, but the move that
helped L.A. the most was the one the GM didn't make.
Although Lombardi has never confirmed that he was shopping captain Dustin
Brown to teams around the NHL, the rumor that the forward was on the trading
block has persisted. At this point, with Brown leading the charge for the
suddenly spectacular Kings, the mere suggestion that he could've been dealt is
already becoming the stuff of legend.
Brown arguably has been the best player for the Kings in this postseason and
that's saying something considering what the eighth-seeded club has done this
spring. After taking the first two games of the Western Conference finals in
Phoenix, Los Angeles is sporting a 10-1 record this postseason and a 7-0 mark
on the road.
The play of goaltender Jonathan Quick has been a major factor in the Kings'
success this spring, but the top line of Brown, Anze Kopitar and Justin
Williams is right up there as well. Brown is leading that line -- and all
skaters left in the playoffs -- with 14 points on seven goals and seven
Brown supplies the muscle on that top unit and he's been a handful for
opposing teams to deal with. Listed at 6 feet, 207 pounds, the American winger
plays even bigger than his size indicates and he is gaining a reputation as
one of the most dangerous open-ice hitters in the game.
His teammates have certainly taken notice of Brown's desire to put his body on
the line to deliver the big hits and some of the Kings players seem to be in
awe of the energy their captain brings to the ice.
"It's almost comical to watch because you think he runs on batteries
sometimes," Kings forward Dustin Penner said. "He keeps on going. You can
knock him down, but you can't keep him down. He takes a lot of punishment
because he gives it out, and hes been that type of leader all year -- not
just the last game or the last series."
Brown's ability to get up after taking punishment was on full display in Game
2 against the Coyotes. Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith delivered a vicious slash
to the back of Brown's leg at one point in the second period. Smith was dealt
a slashing minor, but for some reason Brown also was given two minutes for
diving and had to hobble his way to the box to serve the penalty.
Even scarier was the ugly boarding incident in the third period that saw
Phoenix forward Martin Hanzal drill Brown face-first into the end boards. The
officials called that one right, handing Hanzal a five-minute boarding major
and a game misconduct. Hanzal was later suspended one game by the league for
the brutal hit.
"I was a little shocked at how quick he did get up from the way it looked,"
Kings forward Jarret Stoll said after the game. "It was a pretty dangerous
play -- Brownie's a tough guy. He'll be getting some work done on the old neck
today, I'm sure. But he'll be back and ready (for Game 3)."
The ability to not only dish out, but also absorb punishment has allowed the
soft-spoken Brown to lead by example.
It's hard to believe that only a few months ago trading Brown seemed like a
valid way to improve the Kings. Now, it's difficult to imagine L.A. being
successful without him.
DEVILS EVEN SERIES WITH RANGERS; GABORIK BENCHED
New Jersey evened the Eastern Conference finals with the New York Rangers on
Wednesday, posting a 3-2 win in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden.
The big story heading into the game was Devils head coach Peter DeBoer's
decision to put star wingers Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise on a top line
centered by Travis Zajac. Kovalchuk wound up scoring a goal on the power play
in the first period, but it was David Clarkson who supplied the game-winner on
a deflection early in the third.
The Rangers are experiencing some difficulty with the relentless fore-checking
of the Devils and at times have had serious problems clearing the zone. New
York's star winger Marian Gaborik made a bad effort on one clearing attempt
and that mistake allowed New Jersey to tie the game at 2-2 late in the second
Gaborik's blunder also led to him getting benched for most of the third
period. He sat for the first 11 minutes of the final stanza and skated for
just over three minutes in the period overall.
This isn't the first time Gaborik's playing time has suffered this postseason,
as head coach John Tortorella also sliced his minutes in the opening round
Gaborik, who is tied for second on the Rangers with 10 points this postseason,
responded positively to the previous benching and he'll have to bounce back
again if New York wants to rebound with a win in Saturday's Game 3 battle in
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