On Saturday, January 23, the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets teamed up for a blockbuster that sent shockwaves throughout the NHL. After fulfilling his quick 48-hour quarantine, former Jets winger Jack Roslovic has scored and added five assists in his six games as a member of his hometown team. Former No. 2 overall selection from the 2016 NHL Entry Draft Patrik Laine is now up to three goals in three games for the Jackets.
Winnipeg prized return, Pierre-Luc Dubois has finally emerged from his 14-day quarantine.
Yes, it does seem a little unfair that the Blue Jackets will have had their assets in the lineup for nine total games before the Jets will be able to use their return. But, then again, 115K new cases of COVID-19 daily (United States) can really only be attained in such ways. That said, Winnipeg has seemed fine without Laine, Roslovic and Dubois for the past number of games, and equally alright with the average of 90~ new COVID-19 cases within the province on the daily.
“It felt good to finally get out there,” Dubois said following his first skate with teammates on Sunday morning. “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. Today was a good practice. I felt good out there, skating with K.C. and Lewie, two amazing players. K.C. is one of the most under-rated players in the NHL and Lewie brings that experience, just helping me with all the systems and everything. He can pass the puck, he works really hard, so it felt really great to be out there with those two.”
Moving up and down the ice with Kyle Connor and Trevor Lewis will give the Jets a well-rounded offensive attack. With Mark Scheifele, Paul Stastny and Adam Lowry filling in the roles of the other centre-ice positions, the team has significantly upgraded its depth. And despite the global pandemic, the crew has been a welcoming bunch to the newcomer.
“The guys have been amazing to me today, they’ve been super nice,” he said. “I introduced myself to everybody. Everybody’s asking questions and trying to help me with the systems and all that and learning as much as I can and away from hockey, it’s just fun to be in this locker room. It seems like a really great group of guys and we had a lot of fun today, to be honest, in the dressing room and on the ice and even after in here. It seems like a really great group of guys out there.”
During his quarantine period, PLD has been watching countless hours of video on his new teammates. And in doing so, he has come up with an overall assessment.
“They’re one of the teams I hated playing against,” he said with a smile. “Watching the games and watching them play more often, you start to see why. Whether it’s the systems or it’s every guy individually, I think that this team can play every style of game. They can play fast and physical, they can play offense, they can play D, they can bring everything to the table and I think there’s a lot of talent in the forward group and whoever you’re playing with, you’re playing with a really amazing player. I think throughout the lineup, just seeing the depth they have is something that really impressed me.”
According to his coach, even after taking the past two weeks off in ‘house arrest’, Dubois did not look one bit out of place.
“He handled practice without a problem,” Paul Maurice said. “You wouldn’t have been able to come to the rink and pick the guy that’s been in quarantine for two weeks out. He pushed himself I think as much as he could when he was off the ice. And I think he’ll just get stronger and faster. But he looked right on the ice. I haven’t been on the ice in practice with the man, but I’ve watched him play enough of his NHL career that, yeah, there wasn’t a noticeable drop-off from what I’ve seen on video.”
Skating with the second power play unit, Dubois slotted in alongside Nik Ehlers, Mathieu Perreault, Neal Pionk and a combination of Andrew Copp/Adam Lowry.
“The power play is a place where Pierre-Luc is going to make a home for himself,” Coach Maurice said on Sunday. “And then we’ll just watch, we’ll run both units. If we get to a point where we’re switching between the units, it’s just another great options, you’ve got another centremen who can take face-offs now so if we get thrown out of the face-off circle we’ve still got a good chance of winning it. It’s a good thing for us.We’d like to have two units that we have equal confidence in. They worked well today. He and Niky on the flanks, they moved the puck, they’ll shoot the puck. It’s an upgraded skill level perhaps.”
Gifted with a four-day gameless stretch, the Jets travel to Calgary for the final matchup of a four-game mini-series with the Flames on Tuesday. Should all continue to progress well enough, Dubois is expected to make his Winnipeg Jets debut at 9:00 PM central in Alberta on Tuesday evening. The game can be viewed live on TSN.