Dubois glad to be back

Jets centre ‘feeling pretty good’ after Big Apple quarantine

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DALLAS — Pierre-Luc Dubois admits he’s getting a little homesick. The Winnipeg Jets centre is on an extended road trip right now, the result of a positive COVID-19 test that turned a brief vacation into a bit of a mess.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/02/2022 (300 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

DALLAS — Pierre-Luc Dubois admits he’s getting a little homesick. The Winnipeg Jets centre is on an extended road trip right now, the result of a positive COVID-19 test that turned a brief vacation into a bit of a mess.

“It was fun to start, and then a weird situation,” Dubois told the Free Press on Friday following his club’s morning skate at American Airlines Centre. “I watched The Dirt three times (in quarantine). I’m a Mötley Crüe expert now. I don’t have clean clothes. I don’t have a suit for these games. But I’m feeling pretty good right now. I’m just glad to be back.”

Some background: Dubois left Winnipeg with his teammates on Jan. 28, flying to St. Louis to play the following day and then chartering to Philadelphia for the Feb. 1 game. A five-day All-Star break followed, with players free to go wherever they wanted as long as they were back in town in time for practice on Feb. 7.

Jets centre Pierre-Luc Dubois’ visit to New York City took a turn for the weird when he tested positive for COVID-19 and had to quarantine there. (Scott Kane / The Associated Press files)

While many headed for tropical locales, Dubois decided to take a bite out of the Big Apple. And so off he went to New York City, with the plan to fly back to Winnipeg this past Sunday. Naturally, he needed a PCR test under federal regulations. And that’s where things went off the rails.

“I would have never known I had it if I didn’t have to test to get back,” said Dubois, who is second on the team in scoring with 18 goals and 15 assists through 42 games. “I’ve been sick twice this year where I thought, here’s the day I’m going to test positive. I never did and then when I don’t feel it at all, that’s when I get it.”

He had no symptoms, and was able to start testing negative by day three. On day five — Thursday — he was cleared from COVID protocols and able to emerge from isolation in his Manhattan hotel and head to Dallas to meet up with his teammates who flew in that afternoon. At that point, he’d missed Monday’s Jets practice, Tuesday’s home game against Minnesota (a 2-0 victory), and skates at Canada Life Centre on Wednesday and Thursday.

“I skated (Thursday) at the (Dallas) practice rink. Did a few drills. I was by myself out there. But it was a pretty good skate. I think I pushed myself good enough,” Dubois said of being back on the ice for the first time since that game against the Flyers nine days earlier.

Dubois said it pained him to have to watch the game against the Wild from hundreds of miles away. It was the type of hard-hitting, intense affair he thrives in.

“The guys played really well and those are the games that you have to win, especially at this time of the year, against a good team like that.,” he said. “To win that game, with the way that the guys played, it was fun to see and I’m excited to get into that… it doesn’t mean is always going to be that kind of game. But I’m excited to get back into playing with the guys here.”

Dubois admits he might have jumped off the couch during a first-period brouhaha in which Brenden Dillon laid out Marcus Foligno with a huge hit, and a pair of simultaneous fights broke out (Dillon vs. Jordan Greenway, and Foligno vs. Adam Lowry).

“It was pretty crazy,” he said. It’s not something you see a lot. (Dillon) with a big hit and (Adam Lowry) doing what he does almost every night, defending his teammates. It was exciting to see. I’m not going to lie. I was up watching it. It got me going and got me even more upset that I couldn’t be out there with the guys. It was something you don’t see a lot.”

With the Jets coming off a strong performance and Dubois going so long off skates, interim coach Dave Lowry opted to ease him back into the lineup Friday night. Rather than his usual spot on a line between Kyle Connor and Cole Perfetti, he started on the three line between Lowry and Kristian Reichel. Andrew Copp was left between Connor and Perfetti, while the other top line of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Paul Stastny remained intact. Dubois’ return bumped Evgeny Svechnikov down to the fourth line with Dominic Toninato and Jansen Harkins.

Defenceman Neal Pionk, who also missed Tuesday’s game with COVID, was back in the lineup as well against the Stars. Forward Austin Poganski is also out of protocol but was a healthy scratch, joining Kristian Vesalainen and defenceman Johnathan Kovacevic as the extra bodies.

Forward David Gustafsson, who went down with an injury on Jan. 2, participated in the morning skate in a full-contact jersey and is on the cusp of a return.

“We’re still going to have to get him some more practices with the group. We haven’t done enough battle for him yet, but he’s making progress and he is definitely getting closer,” said Lowry.

On the blue-line, both Logan Stanley and Nathan Beaulieu were involved in the morning skate. Stanley was in a full-contact sweater, while Beaulieu was in a non-contact jersey.

That leaves just three injured players — forwards Nikolaj Ehlers and C.J. Suess and defenceman Dylan Samberg — as the only ones not yet skating.

Gustafsson, Stanley and Beaulieu are all currently on injured reserve, and activating them would force the Jets to make other moves to clear room on the 23-man roster, which is currently at capacity.

“That’s something that we haven’t been afforded is we haven’t played with a full lineup,” Lowry said of this strange season. “Everybody knows that when you’re healthy and there’s competition, that’s good.”

Speaking of capacity, the Jets were happy to hear they can soon resume playing in front of a potential full house at Canada Life Centre.

Winnipeg skated in front of just 250 fans for a pair of January home dates (both losses), then had just over 7,000 fans in the stands last Tuesday when they beat Minnesota. Public health orders will limit them to a maximum of 50 per cent attendance on Monday when they begin a four-game homestand against Chicago, but that number will jump to 100 per cent as of Tuesday.

The Jets host Minnesota on Wednesday, Seattle on Thursday and Edmonton on Saturday. All of those are home dates that were postponed in January with the hope that restrictions would be relaxed later in the season.

“I think that’s great news. It’s been a long, long haul, not only for players, but for ownership — for everybody. For us to see, hopefully, light at the end, that is very encouraging,” said Lowry.

“The two January games were extremely hard to play, especially coming back (home) after playing eight on the road. The last time we had played at home (Dec. 19, a win over St. Louis) was a full building. (This past Tuesday against Minnesota) there was energy, and it was… you know what, for the amount of people there was, it was a great atmosphere.”

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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