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    Kings captain Anze Kopitar on the cusp of franchise history
    • October 20, 2023

    It’ll be a grand occasion for Anze Kopitar when he becomes the Kings’ all-time leader in games played Saturday, as the club he captains will welcome the Boston Bruins following a wildly successful two-game road trip.

    Kopitar will surpass longtime confidant Dustin Brown for sole possession of the team record with 1,297 games. It’ll be the latest etching in the annals for Kopitar, part of a season during which he should also leapfrog Marcel Dionne for the franchise lead in assists and Luc Robitaille for second behind Dionne in career points as a King.

    “What can I say? There’s so much to say, so much good to say about him,” said Kevin Fiala to reporters about Kopitar, who began his career as a King in 2007. “He’s an idol for everybody. An icon. He does everything well, the small details. He comes to the rink every day and works hard. Just, wow!”

    Yet away from home, where the Kings produced a pair of victories and a dozen goals in two games, mostly fresher faces buoyed Kopitar’s group. Pierre-Luc Dubois deposited his first three goals in black and silver, all of which came off assists from Fiala. They included two tallies in a 12-second flurry, the third-fastest back-to-back markers in team history, that swung a tie game in the Kings’ favor en route to a 7-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.

    “That’s perfect. We need (Dubois), and he’s going in the right direction,” defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov said. “He feels comfortable, he’s got some chemistry with Kev, which is huge for us. Hopefully they can do that again and again, every single game.”

    Gavrikov’s arrival came between Fiala’s and that of Dubois, as he was acquired via trade right before last season’s deadline and then re-signed to a two-year extension this summer. Coveted primarily for his defensive prowess, Gavrikov has also shown some scoring touch as he deposited his second goal of the season Thursday.

    “He understands the balance; he knows when to go. He darts in and he darts back out, so rarely is he caught deep, hanging around and not being able to cover his defensive responsibility,” coach Todd McLellan said. “His instincts have taken over and they’ve been quite accurate.”

    As Kopitar, who is tied for second on the roster in scoring behind Fiala with the suddenly combustible Trevor Moore and his four goals in three games, hones in on becoming the Kings’ most-capped and longest-tenured player, the Kings’ outlook has improved rapidly.

    The Kings began the campaign hemmed into icing an awkwardly constructed and undermanned roster, having had Arthur Kaliyev suspended, Viktor Arvidsson injured and less than enough salary-cap space for a complete 23-man group to begin with. Then, they lost Arvidsson, a vital component, for the foreseeable future following back surgery.

    But they’ve now been steadied by the emergence of preseason standout Alex Laferriere, whose vibe with Dubois and Fiala was instantaneous. That also transplanted Kaliyev onto a line with hard-driving Phillip Danault and the Kings’ pace car, Moore, giving that duo a new finisher in Arvidsson’s stead and offering the often inconsistent Kaliyev an incentive to move his feet more.

    Yet trajectories can turn on a dime, and if any team knows how quickly life in pro hockey can come at you, it’s the Bruins.

    They followed up a 2022-23 campaign that saw them win the Presidents’ Trophy en route to setting NHL records for regular-season victories and single-season points with a crushing first-round exit.

    Boston took a 3-1 series lead and a one-goal edge late in Game 7 against the Florida Panthers, but crumbled, in part due to a virus that went through its locker room. Pouring a full shaker of salt into that wound was the reality that last season was the final one for two Bruins that made the franchise’s All-Centennial team this year, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.

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    Their departures haven’t slowed David Pastrnak, who has four goals in three games. He and newly christened team captain Brad Marchand form a leadership group that includes defenseman Charlie McAvoy. Last year’s Vezina Trophy winner, Linus Ullmark, and backup Jeremy Swayman have continued their miserly ways this season. Veteran free-agent signing James van Riemsdyk has been a tremendous value in the early going and rookie center Matthew Poitras has enjoyed a meteoric rise from being a bubble candidate to make Boston’s roster to holding a tentative place in their top six.

    Boston at Kings

    When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Arena

    How to watch: Bally Sports West

    ​ Orange County Register