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Game Day Preview #3, Los Angeles Kings @ Winnipeg Jets

Ilya Kovalchuk comes home. Sort of. Technically. Maybe.

Winnipeg Jets v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

HOW TO WATCH

Game Time: 5:00 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Arctic Ice Hockey

It’s an early one tonight as the Kings head east, embarking on a road trip through parts of Canada. They’re in Winnipeg tonight for the Jets’ home opener, facing off against a team that went all the way to the Western Conference finals last season. The Jets didn’t lose too many key players in the off-season; the most major departure was trade deadline acquisition Paul Stastny, who left in free agency for the Vegas Golden Knights. Laurent Brossoit was acquired after seeing limited time with the Edmonton Oilers at the NHL level to back up Connor Hellebuyck in net. The team on the ice is largely the same team we saw in the playoffs, and they’re already hungry to make their mark on the league.

A Winnipeg Jets Legend

Ilya Kovalchuk may never have played in a Jets sweater, but thanks to the Atlanta Thrashers being picked up and relocated to Winnipeg, he still holds several records for the franchise: most goals (328), points (615), power play goals (115), game winning goals (40), hat tricks (11), and a whole slew of other things. Kovalchuk getting his first goal for the Kings against what is technically, if you squint, sort of his old team would probably not actually feel very significant to him, but will definitely give the broadcast team at least five minutes of material.

Kovalchuk looks to be starting to find his footing as a King, looking far more engaged in play and dangerous than he was in the preseason. His work to enter the zone against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday helped to cause chaos for the Red Wings defenders and eventually set up Anze Kopitar for a goal. He’s starting to get more comfortable on the power play, now that he’s placed in a spot more suited towards his skillset (that is to say, not in front of the net).

Speaking of the Power Play...

It’s still bad, folks. Adrian Kempe at times was the one stationed in front of the net in the game against the Red Wings, which isn’t exactly the best spot for his skill level. At one point, the Kings only had four players out on the ice while they had the man advantage. Even when the personnel are all out on the ice, they’re struggling to enter the zone with any control whatsoever, or to win crucial draws at the beginning of play.

We’re starting to see some progress with the personnel, at least; now it’s just the strategy that needs some work. Winnipeg’s penalty kill is currently sitting at 66.7%, surrendering three power play goals to the Dallas Stars on Saturday. Something has to give eventually on the Kings power play success, or very clear lack thereof, and maybe it’ll change tonight.

Keep An Eye Out For…

  • Dustin Byfuglien. Always.
  • The Jets looked good in their first game of the season against the Blues ( victory) and awful against the Stars (5-1 loss). The reality is probably somewhere in between, and they’re feeling motivated to come out and make a statement in their first home game. The Kings have silenced the Jets in Winnipeg before — last season featured a 4-3 Kings victory in Winnipeg — and hopefully can make it happen again tonight.
  • Patrik Laine has three goals and one assist in five career games against the Kings. He’s an absolute terror with the puck, so keeping him away from some of the Kings’ weaker, slower defensemen is going to be crucial. (Dion Phaneuf. I mean Dion Phaneuf.)

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