Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice will make a slight alteration to his lineup today in an effort to Shore up an underperforming fourth line.
Recent acquisition Nick Shore makes his Winnipeg debut when the Anaheim Ducks pay a visit to Bell MTS Place. The Western Conference matchup is set for 2 p.m.
Shore was plucked off the waiver wire Wednesday after being exposed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’ll replace rookie centre David Gustafsson and slot in between Joona Luoto and Logan Shaw.
The right-shooting forward watched from the press box Thursday as his new squad picked up a well-earned point in Dallas but is primed and ready to play for the first time since Nov. 23, when the visiting Leafs upended the Colorado Avalanche 5-3. Interestingly, the Denver product scored that night, evening the contest 1-1 midway through the first period.
"Certainly, getting to Dallas and not playing the first one, it was good to watch and go over some of the systems. But (I’m) looking forward to the opportunity to get in there and make an impact," Shore, 27, who played in 21 games for the Leafs this season and had three points (2G, 1A), said Saturday following Jets practice.
"Having played against (the Jets) before, especially coming in here, it was always a tough building and they always came out strong. I’m looking forward to being a part of that."
Shore spent the 2018-19 season in the KHL but has played 257 career NHL games and collected 56 points (17G, 39A) between the Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames and the Leafs.
The injection of another veteran into the mix is a huge plus, Shaw said.
"It’s exciting, it’s a new face and I’m sure he’s going to be excited to play. It’ll be fun having a righty, too — it’ll be a bit of a different look. But for us, it doesn’t change things — just try to bring some energy, play smart defensively and make sure we’re strong in the D-zone and chip in offensively when we can," he said.
The trio of the veteran Shaw, 27, and a pair of European youngsters generated just one goal — Gustafsson’s first NHL tally — since being assembled in early November, and rarely played more than around six minutes a night.
"We’ve started to see some good things but we are looking to augment that. We need more," Maurice said. "(The fourth line) is not going to play 12 minutes. I like the way the top-nine (forwards’) are minutes spread out, so (the fourth line) has to be effective in low-minute situations.
"I want to see the puck moved a little differently, and we do have players coming back."
Winnipeg’s No. 1 goalie, Connor Hellebuyck, will make his third straight start between the pipes. He earned a 24-save shutout against the Ducks on Nov. 29 in Anaheim.
The Jets (17-10-2) are coming off a 3-2 overtime defeat to the Stars on Thursday night in Dallas. Winnipeg is 12-6-1 against conference rivals this season.
It’s not the major overhaul to the bottom forward unit some were anticipating, although that could come later in the week. Mason Appleton and Gabriel Bourque, both coming off injuries, are closing in on a return to the lineup, Maurice said.
"Mason is cleared to play. Gabriel is cleared for contact and conditioning," he said. "That’s a six-week injury for Mason (broken bone in his foot) and I gotta get him in some practices before I can consider him, and then have to have a hole created for him — some competition now."
Indeed, that would create a logjam at the forward position and necessitate a roster move. Gustafsson, just 19, could return to his pro team in Sweden and also play for the national team at the upcoming world juniors in the Czech Republic.
That seems like the wise move, although Winnipeg’s brass has yet to make a final decision.
"We won’t make a decision on his year with the world juniors as the primary factor. This will all be on the Winnipeg Jets first, David Gustafsson second, in terms of how that fits. I’m really happy with him, but the thing we’ve always processed here is his age, his development, the minutes he’s getting played. There’s really good value to those minutes," Maurice said.
"Positionally, and his reads and all those things, are way above a 19-year-old. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes in the defensive zone, but we’re in the defensive zone an awful lot with the grouping. We need to get them out to the other end of the ice a little bit more and we also want him touching the puck more and we don’t want him burning a year without touching the puck. So, those are the things we’re thinking about."
The Ducks (12-13-4) are coming off a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday night and have just one victory in their past four outings.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).