SAN JOSE –- It was an inauspicious first few minutes to what the Sharks hope is a season of redemption. Just 1:49 into their season opener on Wednesday, Los Angeles’ Nick Shore tipped a Dustin Brown shot through Martin Jones, staking the Kings to a 1-0 lead.
Enter Sharks tough guy Mike Brown, who took to the ice on the ensuing faceoff and promptly asked the Kings’ Kyle Clifford to drop the gloves. Clifford obliged, and although Brown ended up losing the decision in the bout, the team appreciated what he was trying to accomplish according to captain Joe Pavelski.
“That’s one of the big reasons he’s in the lineup. He brings that energy, whether it’s on the forecheck, or fighting,” Pavelski said. “I think it got everybody on the bench woken up again if they weren’t ready. He battles for us.”
Pete DeBoer said: “It’s a big play by him for us. Big turning point, and not an easy thing to do. I think the guys respect what he went out and did there at a key point in the game.”
The Sharks significantly outplayed the Kings afterwards, eventually tying the game on Joe Thornton’s goal on an odd-man rush and then taking the lead for good on Pavelski’s power play goal.
“I wasn’t expecting to really get out there and start fighting right away but it was just part of the game. Felt it was right,” said Brown, who also mixed it up with a few Kings in the third period after Barclay Goodrow got run. “They got an early lead and I figured there was a chance he might go, so I asked him. I was surprised, but it was all in good fun.”
Brown got into just 12 games last season, suffering a hand injury in the home opener and then breaking his leg in December.
Would a healthy Brown have gotten the Sharks to the postseason? No. But more than once, former coach Todd McLellan and some of the players in the dressing room admitted that they lacked the kind of players that could give the team that energetic boost it often lacked.
Raffi Torres is another one of those guys, but now that his future with the Sharks is in doubt Brown may keep his spot in the active lineup awhile, especially against teams like the Kings and Ducks. He’ll be in again on Saturday for the home opener against Anaheim.
Brown is just one player, of course, and it’s still likely that on some nights he’ll sit in favor of a guy like Ben Smith, who was a healthy scratch on Wednesday and will be again on Saturday. Team toughness was stressed in camp.
“It’s not going to take just me or anyone else that can drop the gloves,” Brown said. “We stress that everyone’s got to be involved, no matter who’s on the ice.”
According to DeBoer, it's so far so good in that regard.
“I thought the [Kings] tested us and I thought we answered the bell,” he said. “We were as physical or more physical. Brownie did a great job of stepping up from a fighting point of view, but from a physical, battling just during the play, I thought we were the more physical team. That’s where it counts.”