EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Although they’ve only played together for four games, not to mention that their team is only six games into the 2016-17 season, the line of left wing Andy Andreoff, rookie center Nic Dowd and right wing Dustin Brown has been the best line for the Los Angeles Kings in those four games.
Andreoff, Dowd and Brown are winning loose puck battles, beating the opposition off the boards, making plays coming off the boards and getting pucks to the net consistently and effectively — they have been dangerous on just about every shift.
“We’re just keeping it simple,” said Dowd. “The goal we scored [on Oct. 22] — we were on a breakout and the defenseman [Brayden McNabb] got us up the ice. Brownie made a play off the far wall. Andy drove the puck in deep, and then pulled up, creating some time and space. I just got the puck off the wall to Brownie, who made a really good play, and [McNabb] scored.”
“[Winning battles along the boards] is something that, across the board on our team, guys are good at, especially in the defensive zone, and that carries into the offensive zone,” added Dowd. “If you look at that play, we spent all of ten seconds in the offensive zone, so it’s [keeping it simple], getting pucks to the net and creating second opportunities.”
Brown indicated that the line has developed chemistry very quickly.
“They’re two young guys playing well,” he said of his linemates. “Nic Dowd has really good offensive vision. It helps that we’ve played a couple of games together and that we’ve stuck with it.”
“It always helps me to get more than one game [with new line mates],” he added. “We’re starting to read off each other better and you can see that more when we don’t have the puck, which is the hardest thing—reading where you want to go on the forecheck, stuff like that. We got on the forecheck, turning pucks over. It was a good night.”
Brown’s veteran experience has made it easier for his linemates to build chemistry.
“[Brown talks to us] as much as he feels he needs to,” said Dowd. “I mean, he’s been around a long time, so he’s seen a lot. I don’t think there’s much that really bothers him, which is good for Andy and I, because at this point in time, I’m in a tough spot.
“You want to make all the right plays at the right times. That’s not always possible, but he definitely keeps us grounded and in the right direction.”
“[He] calms me down a little bit,” added Dowd. “I know, on the bench, he’s a pretty quiet guy, but he keeps me focused on what the task at hand is. It’s been good and he’s been playing really well himself, individually.
“[Brown and] Andreoff have been playing really well. I just have to continue to win face-offs and get the puck into my wingers’ hands so they can make plays.”
As is typical of head coach Darryl Sutter, he offered little, in terms of praise for his third line.
“It’s something we talked about last spring,” he said. “We need production from our third and fourth lines. We need four lines, as I’ve said. Our third and fourth lines have got to score goals, check and be physical.”
As well as the line has played, the spotlight is primarily on Brown, who has not played to expectations since the Kings won their first Stanley Cup Championship in June 2012.
Again, six games is a very small sample size. Nevertheless, Brown has already recorded his first multi-point game (during the win over the Canucks). Last season, his first multi-point game didn’t come until Dec. 29, 2015.
Brown’s goal against the Canucks was an example of what he needs to do more of—get to the front of the net and score those dirty, greasy goals that aren’t pretty, but look just as good as any other goal on the score sheet.
“I just drove the guy wide and then, kinda pulled it in,” Brown said of his shorthanded tally at 0:33 of the second period. “I think [center Anze Kopitar] whacked it. It was [between] sticks and skates [in the crease]. I just found a way to get it in. At that point, the goalie is down and out. It’s just a matter of getting the puck on your stick.”
As for Brown, he is not focused on his own numbers.
“Everyone likes getting points,” he noted. “But it’s more about the two points than it is about individual points.”
“[Brown] was a physical player,” said Sutter. “Strong on the walls, strong on the puck. If he does that, he has a chance to be successful.”