The “Nostalgia Line” was unveiled on the first day of Kings training camp.
Michael Cammalleri skated with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, just as they did nearly a decade ago. The only thing different was Cammalleri’s jersey number — he wears No.14 — but the dynamic was the same.
“He’s open every shift, every play,” Brown said. “Even if you score a goal, he’s still open. Not much has changed.”
Brown recently found a video highlight of the trio, circa 2008, and sent it to Cammalleri — not because of the goal but because of the goal celebration.
“I came down the wing and I scored a nice a goal,” Brown said. “He was wide open. We had the huddle and he’s like, ‘Hey, Brownie, nice goal, but I was wide open.’ ”
The Kings want those jokes to flow again in Cammalleri’s second stint with them. They signed the 35-year-old to a one-year contract that constituted the major offensive addition of their free-agent activity.
The time gap can be quantified in pacifiers and diapers. When Cammalleri was traded from the Kings in 2008, he did not have children. He now has three, including a newborn boy. Brown has four children. Cammalleri feels like he still knows Kopitar and Brown just through social media.
“It’s the Instagram effect,” Cammalleri said. “Even though you don’t talk to people on a regular basis … you feel like you know people’s lives. You see a guy you haven’t seen in so long and it’s like, ‘How’s your kid?’ It makes the world a much smaller place.
“Kopi and Brownie — it’s actually been endearing seeing them again. It’s been so long. We were a line [so long ago], and so seeing them again, having a little bit of the chitchat, that has been fun. It’s been somewhat romantic, if you think of sports in that sense.”
Will romance, or bromance, translate to offense and victories?
Cammalleri scored 10 goals, none after Jan.3, last season with the New Jersey Devils. He sat out most of March because of a shoulder injury and has not played a full season in a nonlockout season since 2008-09.
But Cammalleri deemed himself ready, as do the Kings.
“I think we’re getting a healthy Mike Cammalleri that’s extremely motivated,” coach John Stevens said. “He’s a guy that’s driven to score. You can see that in his game.”
The 5-foot-9 Cammalleri long has been proof that a smaller forward can excel in the NHL. He was a 30-goal scorer and scored 27 goals as recently as 2014-15.
Brown said the biggest benefit is Cammalleri’s aforementioned approach.
“He’s selfish in a good way,” Brown said. “He wants to score. He wants to make a difference. You need more guys with that attitude. He’s a bit of a pit bull, in and around the net. He’s not the biggest guy, but if it’s a puck battle, he wins a lot of them.”
Cammalleri understands the skepticism about how much he has left. He’s into health and wellness, and he speaks with the confidence of a veteran with a proven record of production.
“Time will tell,” Cammalleri said. “[But] those that know me well … know the answers to all these questions already. How about I’ll leave it as a big, ‘We’ll see?’ ”
A fresh start could reenergize Cammalleri, known as a likable, accessible presence in a locker room.
“I’m keen about the opportunity,” he said. “From what I can gather, the core group here is motivated as far as they know what’s happened last year and getting back to where they think they deserve to be.”
Marian Gaborik won’t travel to China when the team leaves Sunday as he recovers from a knee procedure. But “he’s close to a point where he can get involved in practices so he can get his timing back, on top of his hockey conditioning,” Stevens said.