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    Kings will see familiar faces in trip to Winnipeg
    • October 16, 2023

    Still in search of their first win of the young season, the Kings took to the skies for their first road game of the year, in which they’ll be visiting old friends: Gabe Vilardi, Alex Iafallo and Rasmus Kupari, now of the Winnipeg Jets.

    All three players were shipped out in the deal for Pierre-Luc Dubois, and the Kings also jettisoned Sean Durzi (who scored in Arizona’s victorious season opener Friday) to facilitate the trade. In two games this season, Dubois has been held scoreless with a minus-2 rating. Vilardi, Iafallo and Kupari have each recorded a point while skating on three different lines.

    In a moment reminiscent of an episode of “The Simpsons” in which Mr. Burns was told that an angry crowd was saying “Boo-urns,” Dubois joked to reporters that the “boos” he expects to rain down from the Winnipeg stands might actually be fans chanting “Duuuuuuuuub.”

    “If they’re cheering my departure, I think I’d question a little bit more my time there,” Dubois said.

    With a blockbuster trade giving way to an early-season meeting, this game has already received more scrutiny than any other Kings-Jets matchup of the past. The Athletic’s Murat Ates got as close to Dubois as anyone has in news coverage with his piece Monday, in which Dubois talked about the guiding principle in his departures from Columbus and Winnipeg as well as his arrival in Los Angeles: you only live once, he said repeatedly, and even more times in so many words.

    “People are going to say stuff about me that isn’t true but I have to bite the bullet because I’m doing it to myself,” Dubois told Ates. “It’s my decision that this is happening — I could sign a long-term deal and none of this would happen. Or I could do what I feel is right and get all of this. So that’s how that summer went. ‘One day, this is all going to be over.’ That’s how I saw it.”

    Dubois, a bonvivant of sorts whose on-ice pedigree will continue funding both his grueling training in the gym and his gallivanting about the world for the next eight years thanks to a new pact worth $68 million, will face one of his two former teams. At 25, he’s already effectively forced the hands of two franchises, albeit with both receiving plenty in return for his highly desired services.

    Dubois can clue the Kings in a bit on what the Jets may have in store Monday, but the Jets had six eyes on their opponents for multiple seasons with their trio of former Kings.

    “There’s a lot of their system, the 1-3-1 there, it’s a lot of automatic plays — I don’t want to say robotic — but it’s just reads you’ve got to make, and we’ll see,” Vilardi told reporters in Winnipeg, while also lauding his new club’s depth. “Obviously, I know what they’re doing a lot of the time, but it’s still hockey and there’s a lot of reacting and plays that aren’t scripted.”

    Winnipeg lost its opener to Calgary but won its first home game over the defending Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers. Kyle Connor leads them for four points so far and he’s courted a point-per-game pace against the Kings in his career. The Jets averted the loss of two more core components when they re-signed Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele to matching seven-year extensions earlier this month.

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    Anze Kopitar and Kevin Fiala have been among the offensive performers who have delivered for the Kings, but out-scoring opponents has been a tall order because of both the quality of teams the Kings faced and their own lapses.

    The Kings surrendered 11 goals in their first two games (nine were ceded by their goalies), a 5-2 loss to Colorado and a 6-5 shootout defeat by Carolina after a Kings rally that fell short. Coach Todd McLellan described the issues as being more isolated as opposed to the team-wide defensive malaise that plagued them early last season.

    “This feels a little different than last year, this feels a lot more individual-based than group based,” he said.

    ​ Orange County Register