Darryl Sutter bases his offensive lines off groups of twos, so don’t expect to see Marian Gaborik separated from Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter apart from Tyler Toffoli.
That outlook allowed him to move several forwards around for the team’s practice on Saturday, when Milan Lucic was aligned with Carter and Toffoli, and Brown was bumped back up alongside Kopitar and Gaborik, with whom he spent much of the 2014 postseason and episodes of the 2014-15 season.
“We need some more from the forwards, and then if you break that up even farther, and you break it up into lines or power plays, you break it like that – more from our centermen, like that – I think that our top two lines were not getting enough quality looks where it’s one-and-done or in the cycle part of it or the support part of it in the forecheck,” Sutter said. “We’re just not getting enough, so we’re kind of looking at it, ‘OK, who’s playing well, and who looks like they have a hot hand, and who’s worked it before,’ that sort of thing. I still like pairs. I still like Gaby and Kopi, I still like Ty and Jeff, and that’s how we do view it, right? Brownie’s getting lots of good shots and good looks and a lot of time with the puck, so we’ve just kind of got to look at all that.”
Brown has indeed been one of the bright spots among the forwards through the first two games of the season, both regulation losses. He now leads the team with eight shots on goal after a seven-shot performance on Friday night.
Of course, when Milan Lucic was acquired in June, Dean Lombardi almost immediately deemed him a linemate of Kopitar and Gaborik’s, noting that his presence would return Gaborik to his preferred right side. That look ended when Gaborik returned to the left wing on Saturday.
“The last couple of years, mostly I played on the left side there, so I’m very familiar with that,” Gaborik said. “I’ve been on the right side, and I could have done more obviously, but now I’m back on the left side.”
With Brown returning to Kopitar’s line and Lucic joining the Carter-Toffoli pair, Tanner Pearson was moved alongside Nick Shore and Trevor Lewis, and Andy Andreoff skated alongside Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan. Jordan Weal served as an extra forward during line drills.
After practice, Gaborik spoke with LAKI about the adjustments to the team’s lines.
Marian Gaborik, on the adjustments to the team’s lines in practice:
Darryl’s the coach. He makes all the decisions, and obviously in these two games, the first game we didn’t have anything, and our last game, a little bit better, but obviously we need to generate more. It’s a long year, so obviously you’re going to see changes and stuff, but that’s just the way it is. Whoever Im playing with, we just have to make the best out of it … and play well, play the least amount of time in our zone and have some zone time in their end, and just capitalize and bear down on opportunities and score some goals.
Gaborik, on whether Friday’s game represented a step in the right direction for the forwards:
I think so. I mean, we had a bit more, we had some chances, we just have to bury those. We need to do better, obviously, that’s for sure.
Gaborik, on his and Brown’s versatility:
Mostly, last year and now, I’m going to be left, he’s going to be right, so that’s how we’re going to play together. We know what we can expect out of each other there, and we created some chemistry last year at times. Obviously, because we’re going to be playing the next game at least together, so like I said, we just have to make the best out of it and play the best we can. Like I said, whoever I’m playing with or we’re playing with, it doesn’t matter. We just have to generate.