Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bruising forward fitting in fine in move up from fourth line

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WITH a new chance to put his best foot forward, nobody expected Winnipeg Jets right-winger Chris Thorburn to go timidly through the door.

With an injury to left-winger Evander Kane, Thorburn has been moved to the line with Olli Jokinen and Devin Setoguchi and there have been few complaints about the trio's work in the last three games.

"I've just been given an opportunity so I try to do the best with it," Thorburn said after Monday's practice at the MTS Iceplex. "The guys that I'm playing with, they help out a lot. We're close on and off the ice, which goes a long way when it comes to playing with people.

"Just learning some stuff, picking some stuff up from Jokes, he's been around a while, and Seto, he's just a spark plug. We're just looking to have some chemistry and it kind of kicked off right in New York."

That's where Jokinen had two goals, including the winner, and Setoguchi another. In support, Thorburn had his first two assists and points of the season.

'That's the way I'm looking going forward. Take advantage of these opportunities because they don't come around that often'

-- Chris Thorburn

"For the confidence, it was just great to get that early success (with the line)," Thorburn said. "I knew it was there but just to reassure you, that once I was given the opportunity, I was able to take advantage of it.

"That's the way I'm looking going forward. Take advantage of these opportunities because they don't come around that often."

That's the interesting wrinkle in this tale.

Last season, Thorburn became almost a forgotten man for coach Claude Noel as the year wore on.

And that lack of work frequently applied to the entire fourth line.

After Game 8 of last season, where Thorburn was tossed out in the first period in Tampa for a checking-from-behind infraction, his ice time plunged.

Prior to the incident, he was in the eight to 11-minute range. After it, he had six healthy scratches and 14 other games where his ice time didn't reach five minutes.

This season, he was tracking between 2:25 and 8:38 a night but in the last three, with 12:10, 16:04 and 13:17, the opportunity is clear.

"I just want to put my best foot forward," he said. "With their (Jokinen's and Setoguchi's) help, I hope that can carry on."

Noel, who did not have many choices when the juggling was required, endorsed the work of the 30-year-old Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native.

"I think Chris Thorburn has done a really good job," the coach said. "He's filled in well on that line. Take the numbers even out of it. I don't usually go that way anyway. His play's been good. The funny thing is that he's added... the whole line's connected pretty good.

"They look like they've got some chemistry going. He's done well. I think he plays a game where they know what they can expect from him. He's a guy with weight and they utilize him well."

Thorburn's size and skating ability figure to help the Jets with their upcoming Western Conference assignments.

But his style, more of a crasher, won't hurt either.

"It's not like I'm going to change my game because all of a sudden (I'm on a different line)," Thorburn said. "It's straight lines, skate, forecheck and I told (Jokinen), 'Put it in my corner, let the dog go hunt.' It's simple stuff.

"He said, 'OK, let's do it.' "

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 10, 2013 D8

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