Mark it down: Dustin Brown is expected to return for Sunday’s home game against the New York Rangers at Staples Center. Rehabbing a broken finger suffered in the final preseason game that necessitated surgery, Brown has been working his way back into game shape and has appeared to hit that game-readiness threshold in recent days. The only obstacle at the current moment is Long Term Injured Reserve, which stipulates that he has to miss at least 10 games and 24 days of the regular season before returning. Brown was placed on LTIR after Jonathan Quick suffered a lower-body injury that necessitated his own IR stay during the first week of the season to provide roster flexibility that allowed the team to call a goaltender up at the time.
“I mean, I feel good,” Brown said. “I feel like I probably could’ve played last game, but that’s the way things worked out. That’s how it is, so it gives me a couple, four or five extra days to get ready for when I can play.”
It’s the first time Brown has missed more than a small handful of regular season games since he suffered a pair of ankle injuries during his 19-year-old rookie season, an impressive feat given his hard, north-south, physical style of play. Though he had off-season shoulder surgery, he was a full-go in training camp.
“It’s really my first time going through it,” he said. “I don’t think I ever really missed [significant time], minus my first year, but perspective is a little different when you’re a 19-year-old. This is the first time I’ve been out like this, so that’s hard in itself. I think if we were 6-2-1 instead of 2-6-1 it’d be not easy, but manageable. When the team’s struggling, you want to get back and be a part of the solution.”
His impending return should help provide some additional balance in the team’s forward group. It’s not any sort of panacea, but it will help issues related to scoring and forechecking, and the return of a member of the team’s leadership core shouldn’t at all hurt the emotional investment that had been lacking during the last home stand.
“He’s practicing pretty well full here,” General Manager Rob Blake said. “We’re hopeful we get clearance. We’ll see on Friday or Saturday there. Yeah, that’s a big ingredient for the balance and the look of the team. It kind of puts guys in the right spots again. The special teams aspect of that, too. He does both power play and penalty kill.”
Dustin Brown, on balancing serving as a team leader even though he’s not currently active:
Yeah, you try to help them, but I think, as a player, it’s really hard, it’s a weird situation. You’re not in the group and you’re not in the trenches. It’s easy to say ‘oh, do this or do that.’ Everybody’s probably telling us what to do at this point outside of this room, but there’s something about being in it together that is different. I try to give little things here and there to individual players. I’ve been a part of a few team meetings where I’ve said some stuff, but you’re just trying to help in any way. It’s kind of tough when you’re on the sidelines but I feel like I know the guys well enough that I can help them a little bit, just with little things, more mindsets. The on-ice stuff, there’s nothing I can do, or anybody really can do, the players have got to do that part. Again, at this point, you’re just trying to help in any way you can.
Brown, on what he thinks is missing from the team:
Right now, I think that last game was a lot better, our forecheck was a lot better. I think at the end of the day, we’ve had a lot of holes in our game and right now, like I said, last game was better but we’ve got to focus on one or two of those, we can’t be focusing on all of the problems. We’ve just got to shore up one or two things really, really well and then move on. I think frustration – this is a group that has been together a long time, been through a lot of hard things and this is another one of them that I think we need to get our frustration in check as a group and individually, because being outside the room, or not in the room for the last three weeks, I’ll tell you one thing is all the guys care deeply about this team and each other, which is the most important thing. I guess, that’s one thing that can never leave the room. If it does, then everything else is irrelevant.
Brown, on his routine while injured, and whether he works out during games:
I get all my work done in the morning. I don’t like coming to the game at night time and doing anything, so I just watch on the TV. I learned my lesson – actually my first year when I was injured – that watching from the press box can be a dangerous thing. You see the plays, I can’t remember who we were playing, but I’m like, ‘why the hell did he not make that play,’ and then I realized it was Ziggy Palffy, who was definitely the best player on that team. So, I learned a lot as a 19-year-old sitting in the press box that the game just looks so easy. I think either watch it at ice level, which is hard to do, considering the rinks. You miss a little bit from the TV but that’s all we have, really. It looks like a bunch of squirt players out there sometimes from the press box.
-Lead photo via Juan Ocampo/NHLI