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Thorburn bulges the twine

Rugged winger scores first goal of season playing in place of injured sniper Kane

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Jets' Mark Scheifele gets around Predators goaltender Carter Hutton before shooting the puck off Shea Weber for a goal.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Jets' Mark Scheifele gets around Predators goaltender Carter Hutton before shooting the puck off Shea Weber for a goal. Photo Store

Chris Thorburn is not Evander Kane, nor is he trying to be.

But this is the hole the Winnipeg Jets have to fill in the next several weeks while Kane is missing with an infected hand.

Thorburn, the eight-season NHL veteran, switched to the left wing again Tuesday to move into Kane's spot on the line with centre Mark Scheifele and right-winger Blake Wheeler.

It didn't look like any kind of downgrade against the Nashville Predators. Though the Jets lost 4-3, the trio provided all of Winnipeg's offence, each man contributing a goal.

Thorburn said after the game he has no grand illusions of becoming the flashy scorer/power forward that Kane is.

"I think just to create space," he said, asked what he envisioned his contributions will be while Kane is out. "I talked to the guys before the game and when I had that spurt with Yokes (Olli Jokinen) and Seto (Devin Setoguchi), they just said don't make it any harder than it is or has to be.

"I got that from my coach as well, Pascal (Vincent) and that's my mindset, just to play the same game up and down and I want to lay the body to open up some space or free a puck. That's kind of my objective and that's how I'm going to find success on this line."

Thorburn was in the right place at the right time to deflect home his first goal of the season in the first period, a great start to his newest assignment.

"He's a big body, he gets to the net and goes to the corners and is strong on the puck," Scheifele said. "He gets his stick on the puck as well.

"I don't think you have to change your game a lot. Obviously playing with Evander, there's a lot more speed on the left side but Thorby's a good player and it's just a matter of continuing to get the pucks to the wings and drive the middle and get it behind their D.

"He gets in the dirty areas, creates space for you and he does a great job at that. He's always getting tips on the puck and he also plays good D."

Wheeler, who had his 22nd goal of the season, said he wants the line to continue doing the same things.

"I think Scheifs and I are trying to play with the puck and get going north and south," Wheeler said. "What Thorbs brings to that line in the offensive zone, he's almost like a retriever for us.

"He goes and works extremely hard in the corners, battles for those loose pucks and it allows us to try to play with it a little more.

"I think you saw in the third period that he was just taking one or two guys into the boards with him and it gave Scheifs and I a chance to play with the puck and I think that's what we want."

On his goal Tuesday night, which matched his career high, Wheeler said the number didn't mean much.

"It doesn't," he said. "At this point personal milestones don't mean much.

"There's no gratification contributing in losses. Maybe at the end of the year you can give yourself a pat on the back if you've achieved some of your goals but you want to contribute to wins."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 29, 2014 D3

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