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Young Kings Display Poise

Brown, Cammalleri and Huet play key roles in a 2-0 defeat of Colorado by injury-depleted L.A.

November 23, 2003|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — It was Ziggy and the kids against the Colorado Avalanche, on a night when the Kings were supposed to be tired and the Avalanche was supposed to be treacherous, as it usually is.

But Dustin Brown and Michael Cammalleri, two of the Kings' youngest players, grew up quickly in front of 18,007 fans who came despite snow flurries and temperatures in the low teens to see the home team lose, 2-0, Saturday at the Pepsi Center.

Brown, the Kings' 19-year-old first-round draft pick, scored his first career goal and the 21-year-old Cammalleri showed for a third consecutive game why his call-up from the minors Monday was a good move -- even though the injury-depleted Kings had no other option.

Not to be left out of the youth movement, backup goaltender Cristobal Huet had 21 saves and picked up the most important victory of his two-year NHL career.

That the Kings were playing their second game in as many nights against a quality opponent did not go unnoticed.

"There's so many different ingredients here tonight," Coach Andy Murray said. "We played good. We maybe played great."

It started with the locker-room greaseboard, where the Kings juggled every line but the checking line, a strategy that worked to perfection. The biggest move was moving up Brown and Cammalleri from the fourth line to team with Ziggy Palffy.

Palffy opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the second period, Brown gave the Kings a 2-0 cushion a few minutes later, and Cammalleri was there for both, credited with the first assist each time.

Brown, who had been running with the fourth-liners for the better part of his short career, was equal parts ecstatic and elated after the game.

"I could have had a few goals the first five games, then I went through a dry spell," Brown said. "This is the kind of feeling you don't know how to explain."

Saturday wasn't the crispest effort in franchise history for Colorado, which had been on a 7-0-1-1 run but was blanked for the first time since Nov. 11, 2002.

The Avalanche, without injured forwards Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg, missed its usual fire and had only 21 shots, its second-lowest output of the season. Part of it was a stingy King defense and the other part was Huet, who stood firmly when shots got through.

Huet withstood a flurry in the final 3 minutes 35 seconds after King defenseman Aaron Miller was hit with a double minor for high-sticking.

"That was a little tough," said Huet, who has three career shutouts. "All the guys were into it [in the final minutes] because that was the way we played the whole game."

The King penalty kill, easily the worst in the NHL statistically when the week began, went a pristine 13 for 13 in three games and killed all five Colorado power plays.

The only bad moment for the Kings came with 3:15 to play. Ian Laperriere attempted to clear the zone, but the puck flew into the King bench and hit Palffy on the cheekbone. Palffy left the game but the injury was merely a bruise.

Cammalleri played a big role on Brown's goal, winning a faceoff on the right dot, chasing down the puck behind the net, wrapping around and sending a backhander toward the crease. Brown hammered it in from there at 14:13 of the second period.

"Not all that many teams are going to win in here," Murray said. "We're one of the teams that did win. We're fortunate."

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