One goal: A start, a statement or a momentary deviation?
The circumstances behind Dustin Brown’s third-period goal against Anaheim on Tuesday might provide insight. It was Brown’s second goal in 13 games, an important one for the Kings and their captain — a game-tying goal against their closest rival, the Ducks.
On top of it, it was a rare concession by particularly sharp Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller.
“Everyone wants to score goals, especially when you’re struggling,” Brown said Friday. “Lately, since we went East, I’ve had a ton of chances, so it’s trying to just stay with it and stay positive. We’ve all been through those slumps.
“There’s two types of slumps: Like the one I’ve been in now where I’ve been getting chances left and right and it’s just not going in. Or there’s slumps where you’re not getting a sniff. That’s when you should be a little concerned about what you’re doing on the ice.”
One of the most prominent questions in the first third of this season was about Brown’s performance, at times bewildering to the fans and the Kings’ front office. He missed most of training camp after injuring his hamstring on the first day.
With the Kings losing just once in regulation since Nov. 2 — they play the New York Islanders on Saturday night — the criticism has been relatively subdued about his lack of production.
Now, Brown, who has five goals and 10 points, has shown signs of taking those first early steps needed to emerge from a slump. If he needs any words of wisdom, Brown only has to check in with teammate and friend Anze Kopitar, who sits next to him in the dressing room at the Kings’ practice facility.
They are close enough that they can tease about slumps, and Kopitar earlier went through a confounding stretch himself.
“We try to keep it light,” Brown said. “Guys are trying to do their best to break the slump. Sometimes, it’s just having fun with it in a good positive way. If you let it get you down… it’s one of those things, when you’re in quicksand, you try to get out and you just get deeper and deeper.”
“In the back of your head, as a player, you’re thinking about it every day,” Brown said.
Brown and right wing Justin Williams have been moved off Kopitar’s line of late. Jarret Stoll has been centering Brown and Williams and it has helped Brown and Stoll, who scored against St. Louis on Monday, which was his first goal since Oct. 30.
“Somehow [people] think that shaking up lines is a negative thing,” Williams said. “Sometimes you just need to play with someone else to have some more opportunities. Everyone plays different. But everyone plays the same.
“It’s a weird statement to make, but there’s little tendencies to everybody’s game that might switch up someone’s routine if you are in a funk.
“As long as it’s not a different line every game the whole year.”
Injuries and a lack of consistent offense have prompted Kings Coach Darryl Sutter to tinker a bit more than usual. Brown is versatile so he has been moved around.
“We’re finding ways to win, but we’re not scoring a ton of goals,” Brown said. “Most of the players have played together at some point or another. I’ve played with literally every single person.
“Within the last three weeks, I’ve had games where I’ve played a shift with Rick [Mike Richards], a shift with Stolli and a shift with Kopi within 20 minutes.”