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Kings try to stay focused with trade deadline looming

They have acquired Jeff Carter from Columbus for Jack Johnson and have signed Willie Mitchell to a contract extension. General Manager Dean Lombardi says the Kings are "not peddling" Dustin Brown.

February 24, 2012|By Lisa Dillman
  • Kings captain Dustin Brown, who made his NHL debut with the team in 2003, has been the subject of trade rumors.
Kings captain Dustin Brown, who made his NHL debut with the team in 2003,… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

You could never quite call it a circus-type atmosphere for the Kings at the Toyota Sports Center, not with the Lakers occupying part of the El Segundo complex.

But it came close Friday with the departure of defenseman Jack Johnson, the looming arrival of just-acquired forward Jeff Carter from Columbus, trade rumors engulfing captain Dustin Brown and the completion of defenseman Willie Mitchell's two-year, $7-million contract extension

Not long after the trade for Carter became official, Brown became a trending topic on Twitter in Canada on Thursday night, rocketing like a hot initial public offering. His wife kept him updated on the latest rumors and he wisely stayed off the Twitter feeding frenzy.

Brown said it has been more difficult to deal with the speculation away from the rink, wondering where he might be headed. Or if he will be dealt.

"I'm not going to say the thought is not there," Brown said. "When people or media or whoever says something — 'Don't think about elephants.' What do you think about?

"At the same time, I just try to focus on what I need to do to play tomorrow night. Because, as of right now, I'm playing tomorrow night for the L.A. Kings."

Welcome to the Big Top of the NHL's trade deadline.

Kings President and General Manager Dean Lombardi said later Friday, via email, that the team was "not peddling" Brown. That message, to The Times and other outlets, didn't completely put out the intense burst of enthusiasm about the hard-hitting forward. At least one other NHL general manager thought he had heard Brown was on the block.

Simple confusion? Clever positioning? The best-available Dustin?

Anyhow, there was the matter of one more hockey game before the trade deadline Monday. The Kings play Chicago at Staples Center on Saturday night, and Coach Darryl Sutter is expecting Carter to be in the lineup, assuming the medical tests go as expected. Additionally, center Andrei Loktionov was sent down to the Kings' minor league affiliate in Manchester, N.H. Defenseman Slava Voynov was recalled and will be paired with Mitchell.

Sutter indicated Carter would be playing right wing on a line with center Mike Richards. The close friends and former teammates in Philadelphia rarely played together with the Flyers.

Chemistry is an elusive thing, and Sutter steered away from timetables regarding how quickly Richards and Carter could click.

"You know what? I've never seen any of us be right in that," Sutter said. "The bottom line is sometimes it happens quick, sometimes it takes time. And that's the most important part of what we're looking at. We want him [Carter] to come in and play well and play his game and then go from there."

Richards, who said he didn't think it would take long to establish that chemistry, has been exchanging text messages with Carter since the deal was completed Thursday night, and they've kept in regular touch since they were both traded from Philadelphia.

"He's playing well right now," Richards said. "I've watched the last couple of his games. He had a hat trick against San Jose the other night. He had a little bit of injuries earlier in the year, but he's back right now and he's feeling healthy and excited to get started. He's a motivated kid coming in here and it'll be good."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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