PIERRE-LUC Dubois is back in familiar territory, while Paul Stastny is hoping that you can teach an old dog some new tricks. Such is the state of the latest line juggling for the Winnipeg Jets, which has given the top six a fresh look.
Coach Paul Maurice broke out the blender once again around the midway point of Monday’s 4-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, and stuck with the changes for Tuesday’s re-match at Bell MTS Place, which the Jets won 5-2.
Dubois moved off the wing, where he’d been skating with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, back to his natural spot up the middle on a line with Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers. He switched spots with Stastny, the 35-year-old veteran centre who is basically learning how to play left wing at the NHL level on the fly.
"I’ve played right wing before, not left. Sometimes breakouts might be a little tougher, just because you’re on the wall. As a centreman, it’s a lot easier to be underneath the puck. When I did make a mistake there once or twice, (Scheifele) just talked to me on the bench and right away, all of a sudden we figured it out the next time around. That’s what it takes sometimes," Stastny said of the in-game adjustments.
"You’re going to make mistakes, that’s fine. But if you know why you’re doing it and know how to fix it, then you’re fine. Once you get that puck out of the zone, you’re just playing hockey again. For me, I think the game pretty good, so I just kind of read and react to where my linemates are and where the puck is and just go from there."
Stastny looked pretty comfortable Tuesday, scoring a third-period insurance goal to give the Jets a 4-2 lead. Wheeler had an empty-net goal and two assists, while Scheifele had three helpers.
Dubois was held pointless, as was Ehlers, but Connor had a goal and two assists.
Dubois enjoyed some immediate success playing with Scheifele and Wheeler — the trio combined for 16 points in the first two games together — but they’d been held off the scoresheet in two consecutive outings in which the Jets failed to score a five-on-five goal. That prompted Maurice to pull the trigger on what was actually an original idea as soon as Dubois was acquired from Columbus in mid-January in exchange for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic.
"That was probably the first thing that I wrote down after the trade, that that’s the way it would look. So I do want to see it for a while, but I’m not going to leave it five games if it’s not going, I’ll move it around again because there are other options," Maurice said prior to puck drop.
"I mean, we know what Kyle Connor and Scheifele and Wheeler have done together, and I like the idea of Stastny on the wing as a mentor for Pierre-Luc and Nikolaj Ehlers, that could be really, really good, we may end up going there as well. I will tell you I’m really open to moving that around. There’s a comfort level with our forwards."
In other words, the game of musical chairs might not be over just yet.
"All you want is two or three places to go with your lineup that when you make that change everybody on your bench goes ‘Yeah, OK, this has worked before.’ So you’re just trying to build that really good feeling with whatever kind of lines you put together," said Maurice.
The 22-year-old Dubois, who has spent the majority of his three-year NHL career playing up the middle, feels it’s ultimately a better fit for his game.
"Centre allows me to skate more, allows me to battle more. And then to play with those two guys, wherever you are in this lineup you’re surrounded by talent. Nik Ehlers and K.C. are two unbelievable players, fast players, good hands, can pass and shoot. So wherever you are in the lineup you’re surrounded by guys like that," he said.
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