Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Thorburn's injury leaves a big void

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Claude Noel has spent the weekend mulling things over and come this morning he'll reveal his answer to this telling question: How do the Winnipeg Jets fill the void left by the injury to gritty winger Chris Thorburn -- one of the key components to the team's 'GST' checking line -- who will be gone for three weeks with an undisclosed lower-body injury?

"That line has had a true identity on our team and a true value on our team," said Noel Saturday, before giving the troops Sunday off. "There's a real role there for that threesome. They feed off each other and drive our team in some areas.

"There's no doubt that leaves a void, but it's a fill-able void."

Thorburn has four goals and six assists this season, but also provides a grit/toughness element while serving as vocal leader in the dressing room. Noel said the decision will centre around whether to place Antti Miettinen or Eric Fehr on the line with Jim Slater and Tanner Glass or to shuffle the lines a bit. No recall was planned from St. John's and there's also a possibility the team could dress 11 forwards and seven defencemen and double-shift one of their top-six wingers.

"It's going to depend... that's a different role, a different line, so it's a good question," said Noel. "How do you restructure your lines? Do we go four lines, do we play 31/2? How are we going to juggle our forwards?

"It opens the door for opportunity for somebody else and we could double-shift somebody else that you want to get to get more minutes like (Blake) Wheeler, (Evander) Kane. Those guys have been doubling up in the last few games. The games are of heavy magnitude now so you try to win the games... I don't care if you go with eight forwards. You've got to win the games."

There is some potential good news on the injury front: defenceman Zach Bogosian participated in Saturday's optional skate and will practise today with the team. Noel is hopeful he'll be back in the lineup when the Jets play on Wednesday at the MTS Centre against the Dallas Stars.

PK WOES: The Jets special teams didn't exactly wrap themselves in glory in Vancouver-Calgary. The Flames scored three power-play goals on three chances Friday night while the Jets power went 0-for-5 in two games and gave up a short-handed goal against the Canucks.

Heading into Sunday's action, Winnipeg's penalty kill ranked 23rd; the power play ninth.

"We have to seriously take a look at it," said Noel of the penalty-kill unit. "Our power play goes 10 for 26 at home in eight games and your penalty killing goes straight south. You look at the two goals in the Calgary game... direct deflection off us right on the tape, boom-boom. It's like, 'You've gotta be kidding me?' And then they go three for three and there's the game. It's disappointing. But this team has not been a good penalty-killing team. We were 27th last year... so it's not like it's one of our staples. We've got to get better or get people that can kill better."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 12, 2012 C3

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