Anze Kopitar having ‘fun’ rebound season for Kings – Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES — Anze Kopitar played international hockey for his native Slovenia in the summer of 2016 and also played for Team Europe in that year’s World Cup in September, before the 2016-17 NHL season.

What followed was Kopitar’s worst season with the Kings. The center scored just 12 goals and had 40 assists. The 52 points were the lowest of his career, which is now in its 12th season, save for the strike-shortened 2012-13 campaign when he had 42 points in 47 games.

Kopitar did miss a handful of games with a wrist injury, but he still played in 76 of 82 games last season. He wasn’t using the injury, nor his international play, as excuses this week when discussing the solid rebound season he’s currently having.

“I mean, I’m enjoying myself, for sure,” said Kopitar, who had 14 goals and 17 assists for a team-high 31 points – tied for 10th in the league – through 28 games before Tuesday’s game against the visiting Minnesota Wild. “Good individual start and good team start will do that to you.

“It’s obviously a lot more fun than it was last year from my point of view of scoring goals and putting up points. And just bottom line, I know how to play.”

It wasn’t just Kopitar who failed. The team did not make the playoffs, and its 2.43 goals per game average was 24th in the 30-team league. Out went Coach Darryl Sutter, with associate head coach John Stevens taking his place.

The Kings are now averaging 2.96 goals, and with 37 points before Tuesday’s game were leading the Pacific Division and, along with Nashville, were just a point behind Winnipeg and St. Louis for top spot in the Western Conference.

Right wing Dustin Brown was asked to talk about his linemate’s resurgence. Brown was funny.

“From a hockey standpoint, he’s shooting the puck more. For sure, I’ve noticed that he hasn’t passed it as much,” Brown said, smiling and drawing laughs from reporters.

Brown said the team as a whole is having more fun, but especially Kopitar.

“I talked to Kopi a lot last year,” Brown said. “We sit next to each other in the locker room, we’ll sit next to each other on the bus. So I think he just wasn’t enjoying the game last year. Every player has kind of been there at some point in their career, and I think this year he’s just really enjoying playing.”

Kopitar intimated there were moments last season when he felt kind of lost.

“There were a couple of times where I didn’t know what to do with myself for a…

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