Before Dustin Brown took the ice in a post-practice skate with assistant coach Davis Payne, he removed several tags from unused pieces of equipment. It was two weeks into training camp, and he was yet to break in some new articles from his hockey bag.
When he took the ice, he did so in a bright green jersey, not in a black one, or white one, or in any of the other line combination-colored practice jerseys during a conditioning and rehabilitation skate in advance of Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Anaheim Ducks.
Monday represented the first time Brown took the ice since suffering a hamstring injury during the first day of training camp on Thursday September 12 during a fairly routine exchange.
“It was a one-on-one battle drill, and I was just reaching for a puck and it just happened, I guess,” he said. “I was in an awkward position leaning over, but I don’t think there’s any one thing that could have been different. It’s just one of those fluke injuries.”
Though it does throw a wrench into his preseason preparation, he’s not overly concerned over the impact it will have on his attempts to ready himself for an 82-game season.
“Well, considering I had six days last year, I’ll probably have more than that this year. At this level, guys can adapt pretty quickly,” he said. “It’s not like there’s a bunch of new stuff from the X’s and O’s and the thinking part of the game. It’s more about the physical side, and getting my body ready. Though I haven’t been on the ice, there’s been days that it would have been easier to be on the ice than it was in the weight room.”
Speaking of the weight room, he has incrementally added to his daily routine, a regimen he likened to his summer conditioning.
“The first few days I didn’t do much of anything – just treatment and letting it rest, more or less, and then each day you push it a little more in the gym. Probably the last three days I was doing stuff that I would do in mid-off-season – heavy weight testing it, so it felt pretty good the last few days, and today I’ll skate.”
Using the preseason to rekindle his chemistry with linemates Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams wasn’t a high priority for Brown. On Sunday, Kopitar noted that “we’ve played with him enough,” and on Monday, Brown admitted that he’s more concerned about his own readiness and timing, while noting that his conditioning for game situations isn’t causing any alarm.
“I mean, when you play with a player – Justin, I mean, we’ve played the last two and a half years, two years. It comes back pretty quickly. It’s more for me, just getting my timing back. My conditioning, I don’t think will be an issue. I mean, that comes with just getting on the ice. You ask anybody right now, it’s probably they feel like it’s mid-season because of the practices and how they’re run. Hopefully I’ll get a week’s worth of practice, and we’ll see about games and stuff.”
Darryl Sutter couldn’t put a number on how many games he’d like to get Brown in prior to the season, should the captain show the type of improvement required to be able to play in the preseason.
“Today is the first day he’s skated. I really don’t know. He’s a player that’s clearly behind the eight ball,” the Kings coach said. “He hasn’t skated. He skated one day since the start of camp, and he’s not a guy that can just jump into a game. So if he doesn’t get any exhibition games, I’d say it’s highly unlikely that you’ve got a player that’s ready for the season.”