Kids in candy store

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

One's a 24-year-old from Tokyo, the other a farm boy from Swan River, Man. -- best friends and roommates, brought together by hockey, in Tinseltown.

You may have heard of Yutaka Fukufuji, the Los Angeles Kings goaltender who last weekend became the first Japanese-born player to suit up in the NHL.

But you probably don't know his roommate, Barry Brust, who just might be the first Swan River-born goaltender to make the NHL.

So how did Brust, 23, make it from the Manitoba Junior League's Swan Valley Stampeders to the big time?

"A big old horseshoe," Brust told the Sun yesterday from a hotel room in Atlanta, where the Kings lost 6-2 to the Thrashers last night. "It's just one weird circumstance after another."

The Kings' No. 4 goaltender when the season began, Brust only had to look over to the next bed to see how weird.

Just getting up from his pre-game nap was Fukufuji, the Kings No. 5 goalie.

How these two wound up flying charter jets, eating catered meals and staying in high-end hotels is all about luck -- good and bad.

Bad if you're Dan Cloutier, the Kings starter whose miserable season has been mercifully interrupted by hip surgery.

Bad if you're backup Mathieu Garon, out with a broken finger.

And bad if you're Jason Labarbera, L.A.'s top prospect who's stuck down in the AHL because the Kings figure they'll lose him if they try to re-call him.

Step right up, Messrs. Brust and Fukufuji.

"If you'd have told me that I would play more games in the NHL than in the American League, I would have laughed in your face," Brust said. "Basically, the whole time I've been up here... it's been just amazing."

Particularly his first start, in San Jose against, gulp, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo and the Sharks.

Brust found out he was playing just five minutes before the game -- after Cloutier was hurt during the pre-game warmup.

No big deal, he just went out and backstopped the Kings to a 4-2 win.

"I had an unbelievable feeling there," he said. "The guys could have rode me back to L.A., because I was on Cloud 9."

Boxing Day in L.A. was another memorable one.

Cloutier pulled up lame during the morning skate and Brust skated away with a 4-3 shootout victory, stopping both shots in the shootout.

Described as "something of cult hero" by the Los Angeles Daily News that day, Brust received a loud ovation from Kings fans, who displayed a sign reading, "Brust or Bust" in the stands.

"I was surprised," he said. "It makes it a bit easier for me. It's great the support the team has there."

It hasn't all been roses, as Brust, 2-3-1 in nine appearances, was pulled in favour of Fukufuji after allowing five goals against St. Louis, Saturday.

And now his friend and roommate's as wide-eyed as he is.

Talk about two kids in a candy store.

"I don't think either of us really expected this," Brust said. "It's pretty neat."


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