The Winnipeg Jets will be without centre Pierre-Luc Dubois for a second straight game when they head to Edmonton to take on the Oilers Monday night.
Dubois tweaked something in Thursday’s win over the Ottawa Senators but was able to complete the game and felt fine leaving the rink that night. He was pulled from Friday’s practice due to lower-body tightness and missed Saturday’s rematch with the Senators — a 2-1 victory for Ottawa.
"The game ended, he went in to get some minor treatment, not on an injury, the normal feel-good (work). Left the rink feeling good. Came back out the next day, got on the ice and something wasn’t right. So we were just hoping it was going to loosen up," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said following Sunday’s practice, which didn’t include Dubois.
"We call it a mechanism of injury. There wasn’t necessarily an event that bothered him, that he came to the bench sore. It’s just something that wasn’t right. When he got out on the ice we looked at it, we got a little bit of a problem; we’re not sure exactly how long it’s going to be. It might be of couple days, it might be a few more days than that."
Dubois will join the Jets on their four-game road trip, meaning he could be available Wednesday for a rematch with the Oilers or Friday night against the Vancouver Canucks. The 22-year-old has no points in two games for the Jets since being acquired in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets that sent Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic the other way.
Dubois had to quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in Winnipeg, owing to the league’s COVID-19 protocols. The Jets said the two-week absence from game action, which understandably could have effects on a high-performance athlete, played no role in the injury.
"I don’t have him going (Monday), but we’re taking him," Maurice said. "We’ll take everybody."
"Everybody" includes forwards Nate Thompson and Jansen Harkins, both of whom have missed games recently as they work through lower-body injuries. Thompson and Harkins were full participants in Sunday’s workout, which is notable, since Maurice said a few days ago they would have to undergo a full practice before they could be added to a game-day roster.
Thompson (Jan. 22) and Harkins (Feb. 9) are currently on the injured reserve list and would have to be added to the 23-man roster.
With so many health questions, it’s unclear what kind of lineup the Jets will run against the Oilers. More specifically, whether Winnipeg will opt to go a third straight game with 11 forwards and seven defencemen.
It was the first two games in the eight seasons Maurice has been the team’s head coach that he’s run with one fewer forward and one extra defender. While still a small sample size, Maurice said he liked the format and suggested he might use it again.
"I liked it for the front end of the bench, and I didn’t like it for the back end of the bench as much. But I looked at those minutes hard. (Defence coach) Charlie (Huddy) got those D minutes just about right, running seven. I liked it for the forwards because (of the) goal we scored. When you can drop a higher-end guy down on your fourth line and then match them against, maybe, the other team’s fourth line, there’s an advantage there. You can actually manage the recovery better on the bench," the Jets coach said.
"I like it when you’re not running back to back. There’s a chance you’re going to see that happen again. And then some of it is all those kind of quiet injuries. On any given night you’ve got eight guys that are on your rehab report. Sometimes it’s more. They’re dealing with something that you’re obviously not telling people about. So sometimes you’re going to run 12 forwards just because you’ve got some question marks or having seven D really makes sense because you’ve got two guys you’re a little bit worried about in your lineup. So that’s the other reason why you would do it."
If Friday’s practice offered any indication, it appears the Jets will return to the traditional 12-forwards, six-defencemen lineup against the Oilers.
With Dubois out, Mark Scheifele was centring Blake Wheeler and Andrew Copp, with Paul Stastny between Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers. Rounding out the bottom-six group was Adam Lowry with Mathieu Perreault and Mason Appleton, with the fourth line consisting of Thompson between Kristian Vesalainen and Trevor Lewis.
On defence, pairings at practice included the top duo of Josh Morrissey and Tucker Poolman; Derek Forbort and Neal Pionk; Nathan Beaulieu and Dylan DeMelo; and the extra pairing being Logan Stanley and Sami Niku.
The Jets are coming off a disappointing loss to the Senators, where their fate was decided by a Brady Tkachuk goal with eight seconds remaining in regulation time. Players were upset by the result in post-game interviews, but on Sunday seemed to show no residual frustration and instead were looking forward to a pair of games against the Oilers, before moving on to Vancouver.
"They’re obviously a really good team," Ehlers said. "They’re a lot of fun and... we feel as a team that we’re comfortable with playing our type of hockey no matter who we play against. So, if we can continue doing that it’s going to be a fun road trip."
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.