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Whicker: Torrey Mitchell’s hard-rock plays help Dustin Brown enjoy milestone for Kings

Whicker: Torrey Mitchell’s hard-rock plays help Dustin Brown enjoy milestone for Kings

LOS ANGELES — If you took a friend to Staples Center on Thursday night for an introduction to hockey, and if you had to basically chain him (or her) to the seat after the first two excruciating periods, you both learned something about patience.

Maybe not 1,000 games worth of patience, but those who stayed were rewarded.

Dustin Brown watched Martin Gaborik receive jewelry, a ride on a fighter jet, a collage of his accomplishments and two tickets on Delta Airlines in a pregame ceremony. All for getting to 1,000 games in his four different NHL stops.

Then Brown played his own 1,000th game in what has been a hard, rewarding career. Typically it took him to overtime, where Brown beat Semyon Varlamov and gave the Kings a 2-1 victory over Colorado.

“A thousand of anything is a lot,”  Alec Martinez said. “A thousand NHL hockey games? I mean, I could use an expletive here. …

“There’s a lot that goes into it. You have to be healthy, you have to know how to take care of your body. Brownie’s been professional in every way.  You look at him, he came here when the team was rebuilding and went through some tough years. Then he won the two (Stanley) Cups, he was our captain, and he’s been one of our best leaders. You can’t say enough about the guy.”

Brown is having a season of renewal for the Kings, now 22-10-4. He has 13 goals and 29 points. They won this game despite the fact they forgot to bring a pulse to the first two periods, when they trailed the Avalanche 20-14 in shots on goal.

“We were on the wrong side of the puck a lot,” Coach John Stevens said. “We just challenged our team to be better.”

The Kings were futile on their power plays, and fell behind on a seemingly innocent outside shot from Gabriel Landeskog in the second period. They played in noise-free conditions from the beginning, and, in fairness, were in the midst of a one-game holiday homestand between trips.

Stevens admitted Thursday morning that he’d managed to do his laundry, “but that’s about it.”

Gradually, it turned. Maybe it was a scrap initiated by Andy Andreoff that took him and Nail Yakupov off the ice. Less than four minutes later, Martinez floated a game-tying shot that got past Varlamov, as Jonny Brodzinski lined up in the vision lane.

It was the type of fourth-line industry that teams need when their feet are reluctant.

Torrey Mitchell, who centers that line with Andreoff and Brodzinski, emerged from an argument with the puck and fed it low-to-high to Martinez.

“We did a good job of forgetting about those first two periods,” Mitchell said. “Since I’ve been here I’ve noticed this is a pretty good third-period team.”

“That line did a great job winning puck battles, keeping the puck in the zone, winning races to the net,” Stevens said. “We tried to switch the lines around a little bit, but I thought Mitchell’s line was terrific for us.”

Mitchell, 32, came over from the Canadiens on Nov. 22. Kings fans remember his noticeable speed as a youngster with San Jose. He has managed to maintain that, through age and injuries, and he also has made peace with a life of compressed minutes on the fourth line.

“I’ve had that role for a long time,” Mitchell said, smiling. “Obviously the game has changed a little bit. The fourth-line guys can play now, or at least are a little better offensively, put it that way.

“I’m getting older, but my speed has kept me in the game.”

Mitchell has stayed around to play 625 of them. That would make him Yoda in many NHL locker rooms. Around Gaborik and Brown, he’s maybe a redshirt sophomore.

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