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Vilardi: No words traded with Lizzotte in first meeting since injury


Winnipeg Jets centre Gabriel Vilardi let his play on the ice do the talking against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday after being injured against his former team two months ago.

Vilardi, who had a goal and three assists in the Jets' 5-2 win, said he did not exchange words with ex-teammate Blake Lizotte, who he ripped into on Nov. 29 for causing his MCL sprain. 

"No," Vilardi said post-game when asked if the two spoke about it on the ice. "I don't really want to get into that. I said what I felt. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. I said my opinion,

“I thought it was a dumb play by him, and I was out for almost two months because of it. That’s my opinion on it, and not everyone has to agree with it. I have a right to my opinion as well.”

Lizotte went without a point in 11:30 of ice time on Wednesday. 

Vilardi did acknowledge, however, that he had extra motivation playing against the Kings, who dealt him as part of their package for Pierre-Luc Dubois in the off-season, and will continue to move forward.

“Obviously, you saw it out there,” Vilardi said. “I was once here, and now I’m gone. It’s the same for everyone, everyone who was drafted here. I loved my time here, playing here. It was amazing.

"But at the end of the day they didn’t want me, so this doesn’t end anything.”

Vilardi made his return after six weeks out of the lineup on Nov. 30 against the Edmonton Oilers. He has two goals and six points in seven games since. 

The 24-year-old forward was injured on Oct. 17 in his first game against Los Angeles since being traded when he was taken down by Lizotte, who received a two-minute minor penalty for tripping.

“I’ve played with him a lot. He’s done a lot of little things like that. It’s stuff that you guys say it was an awkward fall; it wasn’t an awkward fall. It’s someone pushing your feet out from the back when he gets caught under me and then he tackles me. It’s that simple," Vilardi said of Lizotte ahead of his return.

"I was pretty close to being gone for the rest of the season, so it’s frustrating when I look at stuff like that and think about it. Obviously, I don’t think his intent was to hurt me, but you make plays like that, it’s a stupid play - and it’s frustrating to think that guy sits in the box for two minutes and then I have to deal with what I’ve dealt with for the past month and a half.”

In his first season with the Jets, Vilardi has two goals and seven points in 10 games. 

Selected 11th overall in 2017 by the Kings, he has 43 goals and 85 assists over 152 career games.