Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 3/6/12
NASHVILLE -- At a complicated time, Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown decided to simplify his game. The decision also seemed to simplify his life. With his name at the center of trade rumors, Brown picked the best possible time for himself and for his team to get hot. He has points in four straight games -- as the Kings, currently only one point out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference entering Tuesday's games, are 3-1 in that stretch. Brown also has six goals and four assists in his last six games. By playing a fundamental game -- in this case, going to the net and scoring off plays generated by traffic -- Brown has been getting on the scoresheet in a big way lately. Asked if he were motivated by the rumors, Brown said his recent production might only be a "coincidence, really." "It's a business and it's not my first time that's been out there," he said of the trade rumors involving his name. "I know it's one of things where you just kind of have to deal with that as a player and it's just easy coming to the rink and playing. That's the easy part. It's more away from the rink you can't stop thinking about it. "Now that the trade deadline's over, I'm just focusing on -- I've said this before -- my responsibility as a player is not to worry about what's being said trade-wise. It's my job to get myself ready to play the game." The seeds for whether the Kings actually were shopping Brown or simply taking inquiries began on Feb. 23. That day, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi pulled off a blockbuster trade. The lowest-scoring team in the NHL, Los Angeles sent defenseman Jack Johnson, the third overall pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, and a first-round pick to Columbus for forward Jeff Carter, a one-time 46-goal scorer during his tenure with Philadelphia. Then came the shocker -- that they might make another and that it could include their captain. First it was reported that Brown, 27, a heart-and-soul, home-grown talent in his eighth season with the franchise, could be available. A day or two later, reports surfaced that the Kings had pulled back from possibly dealing Brown, who has not scored fewer than 24 goals over the past four seasons. It all only fueled speculation that maybe the Kings wanted Brown out of the way so they could award the captaincy to Mike Richards, the former Philadelphia Flyers captain whom the Kings acquired in the offseason in a previous blockbuster. Put in such a situation, some players sulk. If the rumors fueled Brown to perform, he isn't saying so. But what is for sure is that with 17 games left entering Tuesday's game at Nashville, the Kings and their captain could be getting hot at the right time. He said with the passing of the trade deadline on Feb. 27, life is getting back to a degree of "normalcy." "Players, teams -- everyone," he said. "Media, all they talk about is trade deadline, trade deadline, trade deadline and then after it happens, obviously, we made a trade a few days before and we're quiet on trade deadline, now it's like guys are starting to settle in and it's also getting back to a bit of a normalcy in your routine." With San Jose having fallen into a bit of disarray with losses and coach Todd McLellan still not behind the bench because of issues stemming from a concussion, the Kings sit only one point behind the Sharks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and remain only three behind Pacific Division co-leaders Dallas and Phoenix for first. For the season, Brown has 19 goals and 20 assists, tying him for the team lead in goals and ranking him second in points. In coach Darryl Sutter, hired on Dec. 20 to replace Terry Murray, the Kings have a bit of a task-master. Asked about Brown's recent performance prior to Tuesday's game with Nashville, the tight-lipped Sutter responded only of that the captain's line that, "We'd like them to be better tonight. As a line, they could be better." Despite scoring a goal apiece in a 4-2 win over Anaheim on Saturday, Brown and linemate Justin Williams were both minus-2. Center Anze Kopitar, who went pointless, was even. Sutter said that Brown might be benefitting from having Carter around. Having two top scoring lines makes it difficult for an opposing team to try and shut down just one line and that can create more favorable match-ups for one or both lines. "We've changed Brownie's role, right?" Sutter said. "Brownie's less -- he's on a different power play unit. He's in different situations. Maybe that's a good challenge for him. Carter's clearly a really high-end skill guy, so different situations make a big difference for our team, quite honestly." Predators coach Barry Trotz was a bit more charitable. "I think (Brown) is one of those guys, in the playoffs and in the important games, he steps up and he becomes that big-body presence with a good degree of skill," Trotz said. "There's probably a reason he has a C' on his sweater." Brown said that while his line continues to see opponents' top defense pairs, the difference is that it isn't also getting the double-whammy of a checking line in addition. "It's not easy to do when you have Mike and Jeff with (Dwight King) on their wing," Brown said of other teams only being able to concentrate on shutting down his line. "It just makes it a lot harder for other teams to key in on Kopie up the middle." And him, as well. If Brown keeps up his production, the Kings will likely be glad they kept him. Sometimes, as they say, the best trades are the ones you don't make.
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