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This article was published 9/4/2021 (197 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Paul Maurice isn’t ready to put the blender away just yet. The Winnipeg Jets bench boss said there may be more tinkering to come with his forward lines, especially given the uncertain timeline surrounding Blake Wheeler’s concussion.
His latest mixing and matching happened during Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens, in which Andrew Copp and Nikolaj Ehlers traded places for the third period. Copp moved up to play with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor, while Ehlers went to the second line with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Paul Stastny.
"I would like to get to the playoffs with a handle on a bunch of different looks so that anything you might contemplate into the playoffs you’ve looked at once or twice so there’s a bit of a familiarity. That goes to styles of game that you’ll play against, what’s effective in heavier games, in speed games, rush teams, all those kinds of things," Maurice said prior to Friday’s optional team practice at Bell Centre.
Winnipeg, which is 5-2-0 against Montreal this season, will look to sweep this latest mini-series with the re-match set for Saturday night.
Given the deep pool of talent up front, you likely won’t find anyone complaining about their current lot in life. There’s more than enough quality to go around, regardless of who your linemates might be on a given night.
"I think you can tinker. When you have injuries, when things are a little bit stagnant, you can switch up the lines. Throughout the year, you play with different guys so you have an idea of what works, what doesn’t work. I think when Paul decides to juggle the lines a little bit, it’s not anything crazy," Stastny said Friday.
"When he does make changes, he does try to keep two of the guys together, switch two players that kind of play a similar style and I’ve played with those other guys so it doesn’t make that big of a change. In that sense, when you can establish your lines, all four lines, and stick with those, that’s nice. But throughout the season or throughout the playoffs, sometimes things aren’t going your way, you switch it up throughout the game and it kind of sparks the team a little bit."
Copp, who added to his career-best year with his 13th goal on Thursday, seems to mesh with whoever he skates with. He had been playing on the third line with Adam Lowry and Mason Appleton, but has now been bumped up to the top six with Wheeler sidelined. Mathieu Perreault moved up from the fourth line and had a strong night with Lowry and Appleton, while Jansen Harkins came into the lineup to take his spot with Nate Thompson and Trevor Lewis, who also scored against the Habs.
"Obviously Wheels goes out - so you know Paul wants to see a few things just in preparation for the last little stretch, so in the playoffs those are things that he can get to, or different combinations that he sees that could work. Just so there’s a comfort level a little bit with playing with different guys. Going through the last few years, I’ve been through a lot of different line changes - so I’m comfortable in that aspect," said Copp.
"But obviously you want to get to a few guys that you can build chemistry with. At this time I feel like I’ve built chemistry with pretty much everyone over the years and kind of figured out their games a little bit, and you know how we fit together and everything like that."
One thing that didn’t go quite as smoothly in Wheeler’s absence was Winnipeg’s power play, which had an 0-for-3 effort against Montreal. It was a rare night off for a unit that has been dangerous of late and is fifth-best in the NHL, clicking at 25.2%.
"To me, when our unit is playing well, we’re moving the puck, we’re not stagnant, we’re kind of attacking. The first power-play I thought we had was just, it was bad, we were trying to force stuff off the rush. We weren’t kind of playing for each other," Stastny said of what went wrong.
He saw some encouraging signs as the game went on and figured they should quickly get back on track.
"The second power-play we had, I thought we simplified a lot more and we got a lot more chances. All of a sudden we had three, four, five shots. To me, that’s simple hockey. When you overthink it sometimes, you try to overdo it and that’s when it’s slow and it doesn’t look that good," said Stastny.
"And when you just go out there and play, and maybe it was because it was late in the game and we weren’t trying to get too fancy —I think the last one we had it was 3-2 with three minutes left in the game or something like that — I think we weren’t being too fancy, we were being a lot more direct and we got a lot more chances. That was nice."
Corey Perry’s dangerous hit from behind on Dylan DeMelo may have been missed by the men in stripes, but it certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the Jets. Nor did Logan Stanley’s response, as he quickly grabbed Perry and invited the veteran winger to drop the gloves. The linesmen broke it up before any punches were thrown.
"We were talking about that (after the game), the difference in the game. Twenty-five years ago that would have happened and then the linesmen would have let the fight happen. Because it would have diffused something 10 minutes later. Because if that had happened 25 years ago, and you couldn’t get to the guy, somebody was getting to him over the course of the game," said Maurice.
"But the game’s changed now. It’s kind of like one answer. Logan did the right thing, the linesman stopped it, and then there’s no injury on the play so you move on. It’s a different game now, it’s probably safer for the players to play. You don’t see a lot of hits from behind. The ref missed it, we’ve worked real hard at not hanging over the boards screaming at the referees this year, sometimes situations will happen like that and you’ve just got to let it go."
The Jets have signed defenceman Simon Lundmark to a three-year entry-level contract.
The 20-year-old from Sweden was selected in the second round, 51st-overall, of the 2019 NHL draft. He has spent the past four seasons with Linkopings in the Swedish Elite League and recorded a career-best two goals, eight assists and 10 points in 47 games this year.
He represented his country in several international events, including winning the gold medal at the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
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.