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Kings' McLellan: Dubois 'has to be a difference-maker'

Jaylynn Nash / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Todd McLellan thinks it's high time that center Pierre-Luc Dubois makes a substantial impact on the Los Angeles Kings.

"At the end of the day, whether PL gets four minutes or gets 24 minutes, he has to be a difference-maker," the bench boss said after Monday's 4-3 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks, per Hockey Royalty's Russell Morgan. "And with or without the puck, we've gone through this long enough. It's time."

Dubois is in his first season in Los Angeles after forcing a trade out of Winnipeg this past offseason. The Kings acquired his services from the Jets in a sign-and-trade that sent forwards Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari, and a 2024 second-round pick north of the border.

Prior to the swap, the Jets inked Dubois to an eight-year extension with an average annual value of $8.5 million. That cap hit will make the 25-year-old the highest-paid forward on the Kings next season, when captain Anze Kopitar's two-year, $14-million pact kicks in.

However, Dubois and the Kings have hardly been a match made in heaven.

L.A.'s flashy addition has mustered just nine goals and 19 points in 44 games while averaging under 16 minutes of ice time. He is also a minus-13 on a Kings squad that boasts a plus-25 goal differential, and he ranks last on the team in both goals above replacement (minus-5.4) and wins above replacement (minus-0.9), per Evolving Hockey.

Dubois is on pace for just 35 points, which would be a new career low, excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 campaign. He's frequently fallen out of favor in the top six, and McLellan has at times demoted him to the fourth line.

The Kings enjoyed a hot start to the campaign, going 20-7-4 through late December. However, Los Angeles picked up just two wins in its last 13 games in an uninspiring skid that featured an eight-game losing streak. As a result, the red-hot Edmonton Oilers have usurped the Kings for third place in the Pacific Division.

Despite L.A.'s suddenly precarious playoff positioning, general manager Rob Blake said Thursday he isn't considering a coaching change.

"Our philosophy here for the past three, four years is on the structure and the system and the design and the buy-in of the players, and (McLellan has) gotten that from the players," he said, per The Athletic's Eric Stephens. "I'm going to rely on the players and the leadership to get us out of that."

Dubois and the Kings' next chance to get things back on track will come Wednesday against the Buffalo Sabres.

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