RALEIGH, N.C. -- Chris Thorburn understands he is playing with house money right now. And no one knows better than the veteran winger that he is just keeping Evander Kane's spot on the left flank of Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler warm until the sniper returns from injury.
But, dang it if playing the hero can be a ton of fun, too.
"It feels great, man, just to chip in," said Thorburn, who scored the game-winner with 1:03 remaining in Tuesday's 2-1 Winnipeg Jets win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
"I'm not a guy that is depended upon to score goals but at the same time I still feel confident to be able to do that when I get the opportunity. I've been given a great opportunity right now and I'm playing with two great players who are helping me out and helping along the way.
"So, if I can contribute and finish off some plays that they create, it's a bonus. My role won't change: it will still be to open up some us for them, let them do their thing, create some havoc and try to get them the puck."
For the record, the game-winner was just Thorburn's fourth in a career that spans 516 games -- and his first decisive marker since the 2008-09 season.
But he's made it this far by understanding his role and being one of those popular glue guys in the dressing room.
"I was definitely nervous when they came to me (about moving up to the second line for Kane)," said Thorburn. "Evander's a great player and no way would I ever think I could fill his shoes. But at the same time I do have a job to do. I just try to stick to the same philosophy I had on the fourth line: get the guys the puck.
"I've been around for awhile. I understand my role. It's not going to change and in some ways it's a little bit better because if somebody tries to take liberties with (Scheifele and Wheeler) it's easier for me to step in right away rather than wait a period or so. I'm looking out for them and still playing hockey.
"Good players make you play better. I appreciate what they've done for me and the opportunity I've been given."
Thorburn's work, not surprisingly, didn't go unnoticed by coach Paul Maurice Tuesday.
"He brought a different element to that line, physicality," said Maurice. "He keeps his shifts short. I'm glad for guys like that who don't get a lot of offensive looks, and he's gone from that line to the fourth line and back and he's the same guy. Same guy on the bench, great team guy... it's nice for those guys because they feel a part of the offence.
"And game-winning goal, too. Tight-game goals are so important for those guys who are heart-and-soul in your room."
Maurice, FYI, is from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. -- as is Thorburn.
And that was mentioned by the bench boss after the game when he was asked if he thought the players had tried to win the game for him in his return to his old stomping grounds in Carolina.
"Not based on the way we played," said Maurice with a grin.
"This isn't my first tour through here, but we all care about each other in there. So, I'm taking it. A Soo boy... the only guy that knew was the guy from Sault Ste. Marie. He was going to make it big. That's why I kept playing him."
FYI: Jets' draft pick Eric Comrie was named Tuesday as the Western Hockey League's Goaltender of the Month for January. The 18-year-old Edmonton product -- a second-round pick (59th overall) in 2013 -- posted an 8-2-0-1 record with one shutout for the Tri-City Americans. During January he posted a 1.35 goals-against average and .962 save percentage.
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