Perreault, other vets form ‘dirty thirties’ line

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MATHIEU Perreault took a look at his latest linemates and came away laughing. At the not-so-tender hockey age of 33, the veteran Winnipeg Jets winger suddenly felt like a kid again.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/01/2021 (582 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MATHIEU Perreault took a look at his latest linemates and came away laughing. At the not-so-tender hockey age of 33, the veteran Winnipeg Jets winger suddenly felt like a kid again.

“I’m actually the young guy on my line right now. That hasn’t happened in a long time,” Perreault cracked following Sunday’s training camp skate at Bell MTS Iceplex. “It’s nice to skate with two veteran guys that play a pretty simple game. So far, it’s been pretty exciting.”

As Jets coach Paul Maurice experiments with his depth forwards ahead of Thursday’s season-opener against Calgary, he has created a long-in-the-tooth trio involving Perreault, 34-year-old Trevor Lewis and 36-year-old Nate Thompson. Combined they’ve played 35 NHL seasons and 2,068 regular-season games.

“It’s nice to skate with two veteran guys that play a pretty simple game. So far, it’s been pretty exciting,” said Winnipeg Jets winger Mathieu Perreault. (John Woods / WinnipegFree Press)

“I really like our group. I think top to bottom, I think you have a lot of guys that are versatile, that can play a lot of different roles, that can play wing, play centre. I think it could be a really formidable bottom six that can really contribute,” said Thompson.

Winnipeg’s top two forward lines are set, with Mark Scheifele between Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers, and Paul Stastny centering Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. That gives the Jets as deep a top-six group as any team in the league.

Things really get interesting on the bottom-six. Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp are a lock for the third line, but who they play with is a work-in-progress. Normally, that role would go to Jack Roslovic, but he remains back home in Columbus as an unsigned restricted free agent looking for a trade.

Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault talks to Nate Thompson and Trevor Lewis during practice Sunday. Combined the trio have played 35 NHL seasons and 2,068 regular-season games.(John Woods / WinnipegFree Press)

Perreault got the first crack at the spot last week, only to suffer a minor injury and miss the next couple days. That opened the door for Mason Appleton, who has looked solid in the spot. Now Perreault is with Thompson and Lewis, which one scribe quickly christened the “dirty thirties” line.

“I think that both of those guys, Mathieu and Trevor, they both play well (on) both sides of the puck. They both can make plays, both skate well, good defensively. When you have guys like that they know their role, they know what to expect but at the same time they’re making plays, it’s a lot of fun to play with,” said Thompson.

“For me and my contributions, it has to be (the) same thing: winning faceoffs, being physical, and at the same time, making plays with them. I think, hopefully the over 30 line can produce and do some damage.”

Lewis, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with Los Angeles, is in camp on a professional tryout offer. He’s been impressive, and a one-year contract with the Jets seems likely. Jansen Harkins, who has missed the last three skates with an undisclosed condition, is also in the mix for work.

“We’re not done with it yet. We haven’t made all of the decisions. Your fourth line has a huge impact on your hockey team and it’s not just in the minutes that they play. You get some veteran guys there that know their job and they do all of the hard things in the game.

They’re going to block every shot, they’re going to kill penalties and because of that, they get the special area of respect from the rest of the players on the team,” Maurice said Sunday,

“They can really be a really important part of the culture of the group. If you get the right mix of players back there that understand…those guys have to come to practice hard every single day. You’d like your whole hockey team to (do that). So we’ve got a whole bunch of options there and we really like how that’s rounded out.”

This is a big season for Perreault, who was the subject of trade and even buyout chatter in the off-season. It’s the final year of a contract that pays him US$4.125 million.

“It would have been tough to go into this last summer without a contract. That being said, this shortened season, we’re going to be playing so many games in a short period of time that this is a year where you’re gonna need your four lines to get on the ice and play minutes if you want to survive this season,” said Perreault.

“It’s a good thing for a guy like me that’s going to be playing bottom six minutes. I’m looking forward to maybe getting a little bit more ice time this year and the reason for that is we’re going to be playing so many games in a short amount of time. I’m looking forward to it, I’m excited for this year.”

After a week at the Iceplex, the Jets will move the rest of their camp downtown to Bell MTS Place starting Monday. They’ll hold a scrimmage, and Maurice suggested roster decisions will likely follow.

Not only will the Jets have to form an opening-night lineup with a maximum of 23 skaters, they’ll also put together a four-to-six player taxi squad. The rest of the players will be assigned to the AHL, which is expected to begin play Feb. 5. Players can be shuffled between the taxi squad and NHL roster, and the AHL and taxi squad, throughout the season.

Maurice said he’d prefer some of his youngest prospects not to linger on the taxi squad, but get game action in the minors once it’s up and running. That means forwards like David Gustafsson, Kristian Vesalainen and Cole Perfetti (once he joins the Jets following a short post-World Juniors break with his family), and defencemen like Ville Heinola, Dylan Samberg and Logan Stanley, likely won’t stick around to start the year.

“A guy keeps making the same mistake over and over as a young player but I kept throwing him back out there, right? We’d talk to him on the bench, try to keep his confidence up, the idea being that there would be a payoff, that we’re looking for a payoff from that now,” said Maurice.

“I don’t feel we’re a young team anymore. I don’t feel we’re in development mode anymore, we’re in performance mode. I don’t know that you would say we’re a veteran team but we’re just not young anymore. We’re coming into now where we expect to be really strong in all positions all over the ice.”

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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