NHL.com will periodically be doing a series called "Five Questions With ...," a Q&A with some of the key figures in the game today aimed at gaining insight into their lives, careers and the state of their teams.
The Los Angeles Kings are rounding into playoff form at just the right time. They're beginning to resemble the team that won the Stanley Cup last June.
The Kings are 4-0-1 with a perfect penalty kill (12-for-12) and nine goals-against in their past five games. Jonathan Quick, last year's Conn Smythe Trophy winner, has started all five, posting a 1.72 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown broke out of mini-scoring slumps in the Kings' 4-3 overtime win Sunday. Mike Richards is starting to put the puck in the net on a consistent basis and Anze Kopitar continues to be a point-per-game player, with five assists in the past five games.
Brown touched on some of the reasons why the Kings can secure the fourth seed in the Western Conference with wins Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild and Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. NBCSN, TSN2) in the following exclusive Q&A.
Here are Five Questions with … Dustin Brown.
The way your team has been playing of late, especially the five games before the one Tuesday in Minnesota, do you feel that your team now resembles the one that won the Stanley Cup last season?
"I think we're playing better as of late, and probably the one thing that is a positive for us is we have had our third- and fourth-line guys, our role players, play very well. That was a big part of our success last year in the playoffs. Now it's just a matter of our top guys getting their games in order going into the playoffs. If you get the third and fourth lines playing as well as they have, that's a good sign and that tends to be a difference-maker. It was for us last year. We had four lines that were playing at a very high level."
"Greener is a big presence on the ice and probably more so in the locker room. He's a big vocal leader for us. He gets himself ready the right way and it rubs off on guys. The energy he brings to our team is huge for us.
"And then you add a guy like [Regehr], who knows what it takes to get to the Final -- he's been there -- and he's a big, strong guy to play against. He's similar to Mitchie in that Mitchie is also hard to play against, big and strong.
"When you have those two guys it gives you a veteran presence, along with Scuds [Rob Scuderi] on a blue line that is still relatively young. It helps [Jake] Muzzin putting him with Greener. It gives him a stay-at-home defenseman next to him and allows him to be a little bit more offensive, which he has been all year."
I've read stories where you guys as players are talking about how much home-ice advantage matters, but just last spring your team proved that it really doesn't. Does it matter if you get the four seed or the five seed?
"You want to finish as high as you can, ultimately. The travel didn't affect us last year, but it also wasn't a condensed season. A lot of teams have been playing a lot of games in the last month, so it really depends on where the conditioning level is at and how fresh they are going into the playoffs. Obviously if you don't have to travel early, especially considering our home record this season, that would be a positive for us."
Were you worried earlier in the season, when you guys got off to a slow start?
"No. We knew we had the group of guys to get back on track, but it was just one of those things where it took us a little bit of time to do it. We were able to lean on each other in those hard times and figure it out.
"We always seem to put ourselves behind the eight ball earlier in the season, but we start playing better toward the end of the season. Ultimately, I think we play a better team game when the game means more. That's not to say it doesn't mean that much in the early games points-wise, but as the season is winding down games become more playoff-like and I think that suits our style of play."
Save for Regehr and Muzzin, the personnel is the same this year as last year, so is this year's version of the L.A. Kings any different than last year's version?
"Just in the fact that we have the know-how of what we did last year and everything that entails going through a long playoff run. I think doing it together and having everyone back was a huge advantage for us going into this season and part of the reason why I think we've been able to play better hockey now. We are very comfortable in the room with who we have."
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