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This article was published 26/2/2021 (278 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Nikolaj Ehlers admits he may have bitten off a bit more than he could chew. But the flashy Winnipeg Jets forward has no regrets about dropping the gloves with Montreal’s Corey Perry.
"It’s not something I plan on doing. It just happens. The puck was across the ice, he crosschecked me, I crosschecked him back, that’s kind of how it ended up happening," Ehlers explained Friday of the previous night’s unexpected fisticuffs.
Ehlers, at 6-0, 172 pounds and with 137 career penalty minutes, is typically using his hands for good, not evil. He definitely got the worst of the brief, third period brouhaha with the 6-3, 206 pound Perry, who is no stranger to the sin bin with 1,194 career minutes for violating the NHL’s rule book.
"I think it went okay. Obviously he’s a bit bigger, a bit stronger and heavier than me. You always know that something bad could happen, but I try to protect myself, said Ehlers, who has previously chucked knuckles with Ryan Getzlaf and Tyson Barrie.
"I’m obviously not a great fighter, I know that, but I try to stand up for myself. It’s worked out, so it is what it is."
DUBOIS FITTING IN
Don’t look now, but Pierre-Luc Dubois is getting extremely comfortable with his new surroundings.
The 22-year-old has five points over the past two games, all spent playing wing on the top line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. In fact, that trio has a combined 16 points in their brief time together.
Scheifele is already a big fan of Dubois, especially for the work he does along the boards in winning puck battles.
"Yeah, he’s fantastic at that. That’s one thing that I know from watching him, from playing against him. A big part of his game is being able to protect the puck. Knowing how to use his body in those situations. For guys like me and Blake, we thrive off that. We like to get in the O-zone. We like to protect the puck with our body. He’s a guy that we’re all learning from. We’re all learning about his tendencies and the plays he can make," said Scheifele.
Jets coach Paul Maurice doesn’t want to keep Dubois, a natural centre, on the wing permanently, but he’s made a compelling case to stay for now.
"There’s a whole bunch of defensive things where you watch the way a guy reacts before he thinks. The play changes direction, where does he go before he even processes the play. That’s just the instinct part of his game. He’s got a real nice defensive instinct for a skilled guy, for a young guy, you don’t expect," said Maurice.
"So that would be the part that you don’t know until you get him on the ice and watch the game real close. The physical strength there, I mean geez, he’s such a young man and he’s already so powerful. The softness of his hands, you’ve seen the little plays he can make. I think what excites me here is we’ve got a player that wants to be involved in all parts of the game. He’s not here just to put numbers up, he’s here to play the game and become a dominant, at some point, centre."
NIKU’S NIFTY PASSES
Sami Niku made the most of his opportunity on Thursday, stepping back into the lineup for the injured Tucker Poolman and having a better showing than three earlier games this season.
There was a great give-and-go with Kyle Connor that created a scoring chance, and a terrific outlet pass to Ehlers which led to a Connor goal. Niku likely earned another look tonight, with Poolman still considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
"I’m not ruling him out just yet but I don’t have a big push to put him back in unless we’re real confident where he is at," Maurice said of Poolman, who skated Friday in a non-contact jersey.
And the play of Niku means there’s no rush.
"I liked his game. He’s a puck-mover — that’s what he’s selling and it was on full display," said Maurice.
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.