EL SEGUNDO, CA — The Los Angeles Kings finally emerge from the dark, wispy shadows of an eight-day hiatus in their schedule tonight at Phoenix, and all expectations are that they should be stronger with the return of left wing Ryan Smyth, right wing Wayne Simmonds and defenseman Jack Johnson, who all missed time with injuries in recent weeks.
If all goes according to their expectations, the Kings’ offense should be bolstered by the return of these players, especially with Smyth being reunited with center Anze Kopitar and right wing Justin Williams on the first line.
The Kings will have to shift some players around on all of their forward lines to accommodate Smyth and Simmonds, and they hope the juggling will help get right wing Dustin Brown untracked.
After scoring 33 goals and adding 27 assists for sixty points in 78 games in the 2007-08 season, followed by 24 goals and 29 assists for 53 points in eighty games last season, Brown has just eight goals with nineteen assists for 27 points in 37 games this season.
Despite ranking second on the team in overall scoring, Brown has scored just four goals in his last 26 games, and has had several goal scoring droughts this season including goal-less streaks lasting six, four and fourteen games.
Brown is currently on pace to score eighteen goals this season.
Although he knows the Kings will eventually need him to pick up the pace offensively, Brown is not worried, given that the Kings are getting secondary scoring and that the team is right in the thick of the playoff race instead of being on the outside looking in.
“It’s one of those things,” Brown shrugged. “I’d much rather have [the number of] goals I have—eight, or seven…whatever it is, and be in the situation we are now rather than two or three years ago when I had twenty at this time, but we’re sitting in 15th place.”
“Ultimately, it’s a team sport and that’s all I’m really focused on,” he stressed. “Personally, it’s frustrating. But from a team standpoint, all I really care about is how we’re doing as a team.”
“As I said, I’d much rather have the stats I have this year and be playing come April, rather than the stats I had a year or two ago and not be [in the playoff race].”
One player who will not be a factor in the Kings’ drive for the playoffs, at least for the time being, is right wing Scott Parse, who was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, on December 18.
Parse, 25, was recalled from Manchester on October 23. In 27 games with the Kings this season, the 5-11, 197-pound native of Portage, Michigan scored four goals and added seven assists for eleven points with twelve penalty minutes.
Although Parse scored some big goals and contributed on a line with center Jarret Stoll and winger Teddy Purcell, he did not show the consistent intensity and effort in the checking part of the game that an NHL player must bring on every shift in every game.
“He knows how to do that when he’s really on top of things and is riding a good feeling—he does participate in that hard play,” said head coach Terry Murray. “But that’s the area that needs to be focused on to be consistent.”
“He’s in and out,” added Murray. “His skating is good when he’s on the balls of his feet and he’s jumping and alert and there’s other times you look at him on a different shift and you’re saying, ‘oh man…get going.’”
Murray said that a lot of young prospects in Parse’s situation feel like the coach and the franchise is betraying them.
“This is exactly the conversation I had with him in my office one-on-one, so I’m not talking out of school because I’ve had this meeting with players over the years and it’s exactly the same scenario for every player that I see who falls into this category,” Murray explained.
“He’s a skilled player, he can score highlight-reel goals,” Murray elaborated. “He plays the game pretty good, but there’s always the parts of the game that coaches look at, and it’s not quite good enough. So we give you time to get through that, to improve. Still not where it needs to be. You get sent back down and the player’s upset at the coach and at the organization because, ‘I scored four or five big goals. They looked great. Why can’t I play there?’”
“As you go through your career now, as a player, you’re going to go to four or five different organizations, possibly, and it’s going to be the same scenario. At the end of your career, you’re going to look back and say, ‘I was screwed my whole career.’”
Murray had some encouraging words for Parse as well, and it seems that Parse took Murray’s words—the encouragement and the criticism—to heart.
“I was very up front with him in discussing this because I’ve seen it almost one thousand times,” Murray stressed. “What’s important for him, as I told him on the plane was, ‘Hey Scotty: you need to go down and work on all those areas of the game that we talked about. The dots-to-boards play, the checking, the intensity every shift that you’re out there. When you get that down, you’re going to be a player in the NHL and you’ll be a very good player because the other stuff, the highlight-reel stuff, I can’t teach you that. But this is about an attitude that you need to bring that high level intensity to your game with a very competitive game [and when you do], you’re going to be a good player.’”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that Brown was on pace to score eighteen goals this season and that would be a career low for him. In fact, in his first three seasons in the NHL, he scored one, four and seventeen goals, respectively. Frozen Royalty regrets the error.
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