The Winnipeg Jets have played 17 games. Within those games, Patrik Laine has suited up once (prior to an injury) before his trade to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Jack Roslovic did not play for Winnipeg as his contract holdout lasted until the deal to his home state of Ohio. While Pierre-Luc Dubois has dressed in just two games for Winnipeg since arriving on the scene on January 23.
A two-week quarantine saw the 22-year-old centreman miss game action from January 21 through February 8, before making his Jets debut in Calgary against the Flames on February 9. He played two days later at home to Ottawa where he suffered what he’s calling a lower-body muscle injury’.
10 days later, he is raring to get back to game action for his new squad.
“First of all, it definitely feels good to be back,” Dubois said Sunday afternoon. “It’s been a tough couple of weeks here, getting back into shape and then getting injured and trying to get back into shape again. It was a muscle injury, something that isn’t too devastating but you also want to be fit to play and now that I’ve practiced and worked out and had a couple team skates here, I’m ready to go again.”
Prior to this lower-body setback, Dubois had played the entirety of his career without missing a single game.
“I mean, I’ve played 240-something games (241) in a row and I’ve been in pain or I’ve been sick before but I just don’t like missing time,” he said candidly. “So, this injury, if it was the game right after, I was ready to go mentally. I did not want to miss time, I had already missed too much time, in my opinion, from the quarantine and all of that. But it was just one of those decisions where you don’t want to play two games and then you’re out for another 10. It was tough. Like I said, I’m someone who wants to play out there. So, at times, to feel like you’re almost there and then you can’t play, it wasn’t easy. But now, I’ve never been more ready to play a hockey game in my entire life.”
From a coaching standpoint, head coach Paul Maurice finally has his full complement of players at his disposal, to use as he sees fit – which is, surprisingly, a first in this 2020-21 season.
“We’ve missed an important person the entire year,” the bench boss said. “Patrik (Laine) played one game and was then out for us and then the quarantine (for Pierre-Luc Dubois) and then we’ve had injuries. We haven’t really got to a group of everybody being available. The superstition in me doesn’t want me to talk about it but it also let us put some people back into some comfortable positions… But having everybody back, you do, you want to go see it. Now we want to see it. This will be a hard, grinding game. I don’t have a whole lot of expectation when a guy comes in and he’s been off for a long time, I just want him to get through the game. But I am interested in seeing it, for sure.”
According to both Dubois and Maurice, the former third overall draft selection (2016, Columbus) will face a set limitation on his ice time Sunday, rather, the player and coach will look to see how things progress throughout the game.
“I won’t go into the game with a minute number for him,” Maurice said. “I’ll watch shift length more than anything else. Some of it is just how the game is called – are we in the box a lot? If we’re killing a lot of penalties, he can play all the regular shifts that he can handle. If we’re on the power play a lot, maybe I’ll watch and give (Mathieu) Perreault a shift up there, (Andrew) Copp a shift up there, every once in a while if I need to spell him off. I won’t monitor the minutes as much as shift length and rotation.”
And for the youngster, his overall contribution weighs much more heavily than that of his total time on ice.
“I don’t know about the minutes,” Dubois chuckled. “Obviously that’s not my choice, but I’m ready to go. I was ready to go two weeks ago, played those two games and then missing some time again. I’ve never been more ready to go so whatever minutes, whatever role I have tonight and in the next upcoming games, I’m ready for it.”
Although playing no preseason, missing two weeks of exercise, playing two games and suffering an injury and then sitting out another 10 days, Dubois says he’s not concerned about the extra scrutiny, while noting the added eyes serve as motivation going forward.
“I don’t think it’s added pressure, it’s extra details,” he said. “There are less mistakes being made as the season goes on. Those details can cost you games at this point. For me, to jump in at this point, is to be the best player that I can be. If I have to keep it simple at times, I keep it simple and try not to take two or three or four games to get into it. Hopefully, it just takes a period or a shift even.”
Dubois will skate on the wing alongside Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler on Sunday evening as the Jets look for a two-game sweep over the Canucks on from Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Winnipeg won the first game 2-0 on Friday, with help from a strong shutout performance by backup netminder Laurent Brossoit. The 9:00 PM central showdown can be viewed live on TSN (Jets Region).