WEATHER ALERT

New No. 2 line gets a ‘D’

Dubois between Stastny and Wheeler does zilch against Leafs

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A recent shuffle of the forward group was supposed to afford Pierre-Luc Dubois some additional on-the-job training.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/03/2021 (671 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A recent shuffle of the forward group was supposed to afford Pierre-Luc Dubois some additional on-the-job training.

 

Little of use, however, was gleaned Wednesday night.

CP Pierre-Luc Dubois (right) centred a line with Blake Wheeler (left) and Paul Stastny (centre), but the trio didn't do much. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)

The Winnipeg Jets centre was assigned by head coach Paul Maurice to skate between veterans Blake Wheeler and Paul Stastny for the second consecutive game.

Even marking on a curve, the trio deserved no better than a ‘D’ in a 3-1 defeat to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

During a shift early in the first period shift, Dubois missed a chance to get the puck out of his own zone and then collided with defenceman Derek Forbort just before Auston Matthews flipped the puck past Connor Hellebuyck to open the scoring.

Wheeler played five shifts in the opening period and didn’t emerge from the dressing room for the second frame after suffering an undisclosed injury. Later, Stastny took a stick to the mouth and lost a tooth.

Check that, another tooth.

Earlier in the day, Dubois, who played his 22nd game in a Jets jersey and the 261st contest of his four-year career, said embracing all continuing-education opportunities is a crucial element of life as an NHL player.

“They’re two guys I used to watch and admire when I was younger, before I got into the league. And not to be able to play with them on the same team, you learn a lot,” he said, following Winnipeg’s morning skate. “But playing on the same line with them, it’s easier to learn their tendencies and stuff like that, what makes them so good, whether it’s with or without the puck in the (defensive) zone or the (offensive) zone.”

Whether the Jets captain misses additional time won’t be known until today at the earliest, so it’s difficult to ascertain the makeup of the top two lines for Friday’s rematch with the Leafs.

Dubois, 22, was acquired from Columbus on Jan. 23 in a bombshell NHL trade, with the Blue Jackets receiving Patrik Laine and Columbus product Jack Roslovic in return. Dubois, selected only one pick behind Laine in the 2016 NHL Draft, had requested the move from Ohio.

He wasn’t able to skate with his new teammates until Feb. 7, owing to Canada’s quarantine laws during the COVID-19 pandemic, and finally debuted with Winnipeg 48 hours later.

Maurice has been shifting pieces since the player swap in an attempt to find the most effect blend of his potent top-six forward group. Initially, Dubois was linked with the compatible duo of Scheifele and Wheeler as a smooth entry into the lineup for the 6-2, 205-pound Quebec native.

He was sidelined by an injury for a few games but then began to blossom on a line with dynamic wingers Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor, who’ve been jockeying all season for the team goal-scoring lead.

Scheifele was between Wheeler and Stastny for a long stint but was aligned with the youngster Monday — to rave reviews as he scored twice.

Maurice said several factors went into his decision to unite Dubois with the pair of skilled, cerebral 30-somethings.

“I wanted to be careful about changing Pierre-Luc’s line because after Game 1 of the Vancouver set (a 4-0 win) I really liked where they were at. The two Edmonton games, I liked what they were doing and I thought it was growing. Then it kind of levelled off,” he said. “I thought for a while that Scheif’s line was grinding and playing hard, but there wasn’t a whole lot going on.

“You need to get through these games with an idea of what changes could you make to your lines when you play different teams when you get into a series and something isn’t working. We have to learn more about this team. With Pierre-Luc here, I’d like to leave it for a while and see where it goes.”

Still seeking a comfort level and consistency in his game, Dubois has pumped in six goals and helped set up eight other — although he was definitely off Wednesday.

He’s a physical specimen and has already tossed heavy hits — case in point, a thunderous check Monday on Calgary Flames blue-liner Chris Tanev — but he’s got a slick set of hands as well.

Some of that might have been diminished as he tried to project what speedy Connor and zigzagging Ehlers would do next.

“Pierre-Luc has this other part to his game, which is big, strong and hanging onto the puck like (Scheifele) but it’s a different rush game. So when Pierre-Luc goes with Blake and (Stastny), those guys just make the right play. It is a simpler game with Wheeler and (Stastny) for Pierre-Luc to play and that then, I actually found him moving quicker,” said the club’s longtime bench boss.

Dubois, the Jets’ youngest player by a month, possesses a prized set of tools and seems keen on distinguishing ways to put them to optimal use.

“As a centreman, you have to kind of adapt. You always want to be supporting the defenceman and, especially, the wingers. But whoever you’re playing with, you have to read off them and make plays to help them a bit more. It’s all part of the process of being the new player on the team. Chemistry doesn’t develop overnight,” he said.

“The more I get to play here… guys get to see how I play, guys get to see what my tendencies are and when lines change, other players know a bit more about me, just from watching me play,” added Dubois. “So, the more games we go and the more plays I make and stuff like that, I think chemistry, that’s how it develops.”

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

 

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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