The 2-1-0 Winnipeg Jets will boast a slightly different looking back-end for Thursday’s contest against the Ottawa Senators. After seeing the same Ottawa team on Tuesday, Jets head coach did not like what he saw from some players – Sami Niku in particular – and has exercised his right to make some lineup changes moving forward.
Although the forward groups will look very similar to what the Jets presented their opposition with on Tuesday, the team will see a different defensive makeup as Niku will draw out of the lineup, with 19-year-old Ville Heinola being inserted in for his 2020-21 regular season debut with the team.
“I liked Logan’s game better,” Jets’ head coach Paul Maurice said. “Sami has a certain skill-set that he needs to employ. I don’t think it’s been there for him. I like where Logan’s at. What he brings, we can use. I just didn’t love Sami’s game. There’s technical parts to that and there’s mistakes. I still have lots of faith in the young man but he’s a puckmover and so is Ville… but if you’re not at the top part of your game, we don’t have a lot of time to wait. So we’ve got to get going.”
Heinola will get a slight boost on Thursday as he will slot in alongside Jets’ alternate captain and No. 1 blueliner Josh Morrissey on the back-end, with two-game veteran Logan Stanley also remaining on the active roster for the second of three-straight matchups with the Senators.
“I’m ready to go today, I will be ready, Heinola said. “I feel like I’m stronger and faster now. I just have to use my body more now so I can be better in the defensive zone and all-around better. That’s the biggest thing today, to show that.”
In his eight games with the big club last season, Heinola put up a goal and five points, before ultimately going back to Finland for the remainder of the season. He has since come back to North America, where he suited up for the national team at the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship, earning a bronze medal. He has spent the past few days skating with the team after exiting his mandatory quarantine.
In 19 games for Lukko Rauma of Finland, the 20th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft has earned a goal and 13 assists.
Now winners of seven of their past nine games against Ottawa, Patrik Laine will remain out of the lineup with an upper-body injury. Despite attempting to skate on both Tuesday and Wednesday, the Finnish forward did not see much improvement and was held off the ice on Thursday morning. Coach Maurice confirmed that Laine would not be skating with the team Thursday evening.
Puck drop on Game 4 of the regular season for Winnipeg is set for 6:00 PM central time. The game can be viewed live on TSN.