May 27, 2012 6:00 pm

Kovalchuk, Kings brought together again

It’s a case of what might have been. Two years ago, the Kings courted Ilya Kovalchuk when he was an unrestricted free agent. After a long, confusing period, Kovalchuk decided to stay with the New Jersey Devils and signed a $15-year, $100-million contract. Before that, Kovalchuk and his wife visited Los Angeles and met with many members of Kings management as well as captain Dustin Brown. Asked if he had any memories of meeting Kovalchuk then, Brown today said, “I met him when he was here at the facility. That was it. … It was so brief. It’s hard to really gather any type of feelings (about) him.’’

Kovalchuk was the “big fish’’ of the 2010 free-agent pool, and his decision-making process lasted weeks and turned into something out of a reality show, with Kovalchuk finally announcing his choice. Kovalchuk recently told the New York Daily News, “It’s actually a little weird, the two teams I choose (between) are going to face off in the Finals. I am pretty sure I made the right decision.’’

Kovalchuk took some heat last season, when he totaled 31 goals and 29 assists and the Devils missed the playoffs. Kovalchuk’s statistics returned to form this season, though, as he had 37 goals and 46 assists in 77 games. In this postseason, Kovalchuk has seven goals and 11 assists in 17 games.

BROWN: “Well, he’s big, he’s strong and he’s fast. With Kovalchuk, with his skill level and his skill set, I think it’s important for guys just to get in his way. He’s one of those players who, if you give him the time and space and the open ice to gather up his speed, he’s pretty hard to defend. You have to try to slow him down, and that’s a matter of guys stepping in front of him. It sounds repetitive, but it’s the same thing against every team. You’ve got to make it hard on their top players, because if you don’t, they’ll make you pay, maybe even more so with his skill set. It’s probably one of the best individual skill sets we have faced in the playoffs.’’

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