The Winnipeg Jets meet the Calgary Flames tonight. For the Jets’ fans, it’s a chance to see the new addition to the team Pierre-Luc Dubois. For the Flames’ fans, it’s a chance to see if Sam Bennett can make the most of his opportunity to play on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
As the teams ready for the game, in this edition of Jets News & Rumors, I want to take an opportunity to help Jets’ fans stay up-to-date with the news that’s emerging from the team and the organization.
Item One: Pierre-Luc Dubois Is Looking to Make His Jets’ Debut Tonight
Pierre-Luc Dubois is hoping to make his first Jets’ start tonight against the Flames. His 14-day quarantine ended last Saturday and he practiced with the Jets for the first time Sunday.
Dubois was optimistic that he’d be ready to go. As he noted this past week about the game, “I’m trying to be very optimistic. I think it’ll be good on the ice. This won’t be like the summer when you don’t work out for two or three weeks then you start again in mid-summer. I’ve played five games, we had training camp and I skated a lot more this offseason because of the way things were so I’m hopeful.”
Dubois’ last game was on Jan. 21 when he played for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, you might not want to call that a game. He played less than four minutes, obviously didn’t show up, and was benched for the final two periods by his coach John Tortorella.
Dubois will likely be a bit more motivated to prove the Jets made a wise choice in moving Patrik Laine for him. He was first projected to start on the Jets’ second line; however, it looks as if he’s starting on the Jets’ third line. During his first practice with his new team on Sunday, Dubois centered a line with Kyle Connor and Trevor Lewis. He’ll likely also be put on the second power-play unit.
After that first practice, Dubois reported, “It felt good to finally get out there. Just two weeks of working out in your living room keeps you, to a certain extent, in good shape, but there’s nothing like skating out there.”
In fact, Dubois might be a bit flat. He only skated for the first time on Saturday. He admitted that his skating was “probably not where I left off before the quarantine. Obviously, you lose some of that because there’s nothing like skating and playing and practicing. I felt good out there today, I’ll have another practice here tomorrow and I’ll have a morning skate before the game. I think it will be enough practices for me to at least feel good about myself.”
Item Two: Kristian Vesalainen Will Likely Play with Paul Stastny and Blake Wheeler
If what happens in practice translates to the ice during a game, it looks as if the 21-year-old Finish left-winger Kristian Vesalainen will be skating with Paul Stastny and Blake Wheeler.
Vesalainen acknowledged as much when he noted, “It’s going to be a big opportunity for me to show what I can do, so I have to be good every day and work really hard to keep my position there.”
The young Vesalainen added, “I think it’s been a pretty good season so far for me. I know they are really good players in this league and it’s going to be fun if I can play with those guys, so I have to prepare pretty good in the practice to do that.”
Vesalainen has played four games this season with the Jets, but has failed to register a point so far. (from “Healthy Poolman kicks COVID, now plans to bust into lineup, Jeff Hamilton, Winnipeg Free Press, 08/02/21).
Item Three: Paul Statsny’s Scoring Has Slowed Down
During Sunday’s practice, Paul Stastny skated with line partners Blake Wheeler and Vesalainen. Statsny had been scoring well during the time he was playing with Andrew Copp and Nikolaj Ehlers; however, those two players have been moved to a line with Mark Scheifele lately and Stastny’s body of work has suffered a bit. He hasn’t scored during the last four games.
Item Four: Projected Line Combinations for the Jets
For the game, the Jets’ lines are projected to be as follows:
What’s Next for the Jets?
For the Jets, this is the fourth game in a row that they’ve played the Flames in February. They’ve taken five of a possible six points during those games. After losing 4-3 in a shootout on Feb. 1, the Jets won the last two by scores of 3-2 on Tuesday and 4-1 on Thursday of last week.
The Flames on the other hand squeezed in a 6-4 victory in the Battle of Alberta on Saturday night. It should be a good game, with both teams watching specific players. My eyes will be on Dubois to see how he will play in his first game in a Jets’ uniform.