April 19, 2018

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Perreault moves up as coach adjusts lines

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Mathieu Perreault celebrates a goal during practice at MTS Centre Thursday.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mathieu Perreault celebrates a goal during practice at MTS Centre Thursday.

It’s often said that one person’s misfortune is another person’s gain.

Perhaps no one knows this more than Winnipeg Jets forward Mathieu Perreault, who is about to see a major boost in his ice time — and ultimately his role — with the Jets after an injury to No. 1 centreman Mark Scheifele.

With Scheifele set to miss the next six to eight weeks with an upper-body injury, it’s Perreault who is expected to benefit most from his absence. The gritty but skilled winger has jumped from the fourth line to the second unit, where he will line up on the left side with centreman Bryan Little and right-winger Nikolaj Ehlers.

“To me, it doesn’t really change anything — my game is going to be the same,” Perreault said after the Jets practice Thursday.

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It’s often said that one person’s misfortune is another person’s gain.

Perhaps no one knows this more than Winnipeg Jets forward Mathieu Perreault, who is about to see a major boost in his ice time — and ultimately his role — with the Jets after an injury to No. 1 centreman Mark Scheifele.

With Scheifele set to miss the next six to eight weeks with an upper-body injury, it’s Perreault who is expected to benefit most from his absence. The gritty but skilled winger has jumped from the fourth line to the second unit, where he will line up on the left side with centreman Bryan Little and right-winger Nikolaj Ehlers.

"To me, it doesn’t really change anything — my game is going to be the same," Perreault said after the Jets practice Thursday.

"But I’m excited to get an opportunity to play a little bit more, and with some skilled players."

Perreault has been a productive piece for the Jets this season, despite playing limited minutes. He has 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 26 games, while averaging just 12 minutes and 24 seconds of ice time per game.

While he was able to bring out the best in linemates Matt Hendricks and Joel Armia, Perreault will now be expected to help drive a second line that will not only be expected to fill the net, but will have to do so against the opponent’s top lines.

"We all understand where Mark fits in the pecking order, how important he is to our team," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said.

"Matty Perreault isn’t happy that Mark is out, but he’s pretty happy he’s going to play more minutes."

Maurice called Perreault the obvious choice when it came to promoting a depth player to a top-line role. Not only was Perreault able to add a scoring touch to the bottom six, but he also did so without complaining about his role or ice time.

"We were just real fortunate that Matty handled that situation the way he did. He liked playing there," Maurice said. "He hasn’t knocked on my door once to talk about a role change or a minute change. And that was true in the year or two past, where I had played him with Lowry and Armia at times — played him with all the different centremen."

If the Jets (21-11-6), who headed into Thursday just one point shy of the Nashville Predators for top spot in the Central Division, are to keep pace with the best teams in the league, it’s going to be more than Perreault who has to pick up his game.

"We’re coming to a tough part of the year, it’s an important part of the season for us," said Jets captain Blake Wheeler, who has been moved from right wing to centre on the top line with Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine. "We’re still going to be on the road here quite a bit in January, but we’re just going to have to fight."

Before the Jets hit the road for a two-game trip through Edmonton and Colorado, they welcome the New York Islanders to town tonight. The Islanders (20-13-4) disposed of the Jets 5-2 the last time they played Dec. 23, in what was one of Winnipeg’s worst games of the season.

"We should be a little ornery about that one — it was a butt-kicking, and we had three days to stew over it over Christmas break," Wheeler said. "We intend on having a better effort. But that being said, they’re a really good team playing well. It doesn’t guarantee you anything, but at home we expect to have a better effort than we had the other night."

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.catwitter: @jeffkhamilton

Read more by Jeff Hamilton.

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History

Updated on Friday, December 29, 2017 at 7:25 AM CST: Photo added.

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