With an ice pack on his leg and a weariness in his voice, Dustin Brown cut right to the bone.
The former Kings captain doesn’t speak often these days, but when he does, it carries the weight of someone, who, later this season, will pass Dave Taylor for the most games played for the franchise. Brown has seen it all, and he saw the present through a raw lens following another day of losing — their sixth straight — and roster movement.
A 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators ended a Thursday that began with the trade of Carl Hagelin to the Washington Capitals for draft picks, in the latest step toward where the Kings are headed.
“You’ve got to look at it honestly,” Brown said. “We’re last in the West … it’s not so much the points that are the difficult part of us climbing back in. We have to leapfrog seven other teams. It’s just not very likely.
“We’ve had two players [Jake Muzzin and Tanner Pearson] from our Stanley Cup teams traded. It’s probably the first time in a long time, we’ve traded players out. Carl was here for  games. It makes sense. We’ve got to try to get better, and in the meantime, the players that are here got to perform better, too.”
It was perhaps the first time that a Kings player publicly conceded this season in a nod toward next year and beyond, however obvious it has become. That was affirmed with the trade of Hagelin for a third-round draft pick this year and a conditional sixth-round pick in 2020.
The Kings have 10 draft picks in June, three of which have been acquired in trades over the past month. And they might not be done with the trade deadline Monday. The lineup that remains includes three rookies and four others in their second year in the NHL, but also veterans walking on new ground.
“As a group we need to find a way to manage our frustration because a lot of the guys have never been on a team like this, quite honestly,” Brown said. “I think myself and maybe [Anze Kopitar’s] first year. A lot of these guys have always been on good teams. It’s a little different when you have to play games. Right now, we’re a losing team. It’s difficult and a new experience for a lot of guys.”
The condition on the sixth-round pick in the Hagelin deal is if the Capitals advance to the Eastern Conference final and Hagelin plays in 50% of the games. The Kings will retain 50% of Hagelin’s salary after a brief stay in which he formed a forechecking line with Adrian Kempe and Ilya Kovalchuk.
“He had a good impact on us, especially on me,” Kempe said. “I think we had some good chemistry. I liked to play with him. He made me better. It’s sad that he’s leaving. But he’s been part of two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh, so obviously he’s a player that a lot of teams want.”
Without Hagelin, Trevor Lewis played wing on a line with Kempe and Brendan Leipsic. Michael Amadio went back into the lineup at fourth-line center and scored the Kings’ only goal when he whacked in a rebound to make it 2-1 with more than 10 minutes remaining.
That the Kings were in it was significant given stretches tilted toward Nashville. The Predators got goals by Roman Josi, off a clever backhand drop pass from Viktor Arvidsson, and on the power play by Kyle Turris.
Lewis had a great chance after a Nashville turnover behind the net in the first period, but goalie Pekka Rinne kept it 1-0 with an incredible recovery save to draw raves at Bridgestone Arena.
“We’re just not good enough right now,” Brown said. “We’ve got to figure out, individually, how to be better and collectively, to be better. There’s just certain plays where, we make it a little bit harder on ourselves than we need to. We have a lot of guys that are kind of learning on the fly right now. I think it’s a good opportunity for guys to play in these games. But … losing six in a row, at this time of year, in the position we’re in, it’s frustrating.”