Jets a picture of health
Maurice finally has full roster to work with
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/02/2021 (834 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Someone find a piece of wood to knock on. Because, for the first time all year, Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice had an entire healthy roster at his disposal on Sunday night.
That includes 22-year-old Pierre-Luc Dubois, who returned to the lineup after missing four games with a lower-body injury.
“I’ve never been more ready to go so whatever minutes, whatever role I have and in the next upcoming games, I’m ready for it,” Dubois said prior to puck drop against the Vancouver Canucks to close out a four-game road trip.
The natural centre was moved to left-wing to play on the top line with centre Mark Scheifele and captain Blake Wheeler. That meant a second line of Paul Stastny between Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor, a third line reuniting Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp along with Mason Appleton, and a fourth line with the “dirty thirties” trio of veterans Nathan Thompson, Trevor Lewis and Mathieu Perreault.
Jansen Harkins came out to make room for Dubois, while Kristian Vesalainen was taken off the 23-man roster and sent down to the taxi squad.
“We haven’t really got to a group of everybody being available. The superstition in me doesn’t want me to talk about it but it also let us put some people back into some comfortable positions. Kyle and (Ehlers) really like playing with each other and I think Paul is really good in the middle and I’ve always liked Copp and Lowry, but I like Lowry and Appleton, too. So, I’m interested to see what they can do,” said Maurice.
“I’m excited. I don’t have Pierre-Luc as a winger for a career. He’s a centreman and we will eventually get him to that.”
Winnipeg’s first 17 games of the year, in which they went 10-6-1, involved at least one player always on the injured list, in COVID-19 protocol or being otherwise unavailable, such as Dylan DeMelo missing the first four contests to be with his wife following the birth of their child.
“It’s exciting, I guess it’s a bit of a rarity with this this year. It will be nice to see what we do. Hopefully we can keep the same lineup for a long time and get a good read on how we gel and how we play. We are at the stage now, obviously, where we have a lot of good players, and there are a lot of good guys that aren’t playing. So everyone has to be interchangeable,” said DeMelo.
“But I’m not going to put any expectations on Duby – he’s been out a little while – but we love the type of player that he is and we think he fits with our group really well and we like where our game is at right now. So yeah, it’s exciting for sure to have everybody in.”
Patrik Laine only played the season-opener before getting hurt and then eventually traded, along with Jack Roslovic, to Columbus. By the time Dubois was out of quarantine and ready to, defenceman Tucker Poolman was isolated after a positive test. And then Dubois quickly got hurt after two games in which he was held pointless. The Jets have also dealt with injuries to Thompson and Harkins.
“We’ve missed an important person the entire year,” said Maurice.
Adding a bit of insult to injury is the fact Roslovic has scored four goals and added six assists in his first 12 games with the Blue Jackets. Laine has four goals, three assists and one high-profile benching in his nine games with Columbus.
“It definitely feels good to be back. It’s been a tough couple of weeks here, getting back into shape and then getting injured and trying to get back into shape again. It was a muscle injury, something that isn’t too devastating but you also want to be fit to play and now that I’ve practiced and worked out and had a couple team skates here, I’m ready to go again,” said Dubois.
He played the first 241 games of his NHL career without ever getting hurt, which only added to the frustration given the unusual circumstances to start this year.
“I’ve been in pain or I’ve been sick before but I just don’t like missing time. So, this injury, if it was the game right after, I was ready to go mentally. I did not want to miss time, I had already missed too much time, in my opinion, from the quarantine and all of that. But it was just one of those decisions where you don’t want to play two games and then you’re out for another 10,” said Dubois.
“It was tough. Like I said, I’m someone who wants to play out there. So, at times, to feel like you’re almost there and then you can’t play, it wasn’t easy. But now, I’ve never been more ready to play a hockey game in my entire life.”
Maurice said one potential option would be to have Dubois and Stastny switch places at some point. Copp is also in the mix to move back up into the top six, where he has excelled early this season.
“You’ll notice the last shift of (Friday’s) game when I went to two lines, Stastny played left wing with Scheifele and Wheeler. Got a big shot block last game and you’re sitting there going, ‘OK, there’s something there.’ And left-handed faceoff man, especially for Mark on his weak side in the offensive zone. So, there’s a bunch of things that I like about that, too,” said Maurice.
“But having everybody back, you do, you want to go see it. Now we want to see it.”
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.