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It is not exactly a secret to success: get all your forwards pulling in the same direction at the same time and you’ll greatly improve your chances of winning.
While the Winnipeg Jets still have plenty of room for improvement, they may have come closest to experiencing the elusive nirvana in their latest outing. Thursday night’s 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks included solid showings from all four lines for arguably the first time this season.
“You know, we’re dangerous when all four lines are going,” forward Jack Roslovic said following Friday’s practice at Bell MTS Place.
Winnipeg will be looking to take another step in that direction today when they host the Arizona Coyotes at 3 p.m. It’s the fourth game of a season-long six-game homestand. Backup goalie Laurent Brossoit will get his second start of the season, looking to build on his 42-save effort in Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Roslovic-Mathieu Perreault-Brendan Lemieux line took the biggest step Thursday, as head coach Paul Maurice showed plenty of confidence in raising their minutes and playing them regularly, even when the score was deadlocked until early in the third period.
“That was their best night,” Maurice said.
Perreault was his usual tenacious self on the forecheck, while rookie Lemieux brought plenty of spark to go with Roslovic’s speed and skill.
“You know that confidence with the puck comes with playing. And when we can get into double-digit numbers and we can get the lines rolling and our line can get confident, then we’re a really effective line and a good line and we can help the hockey team,” Roslovic said. “It’s a game that it looks like we did more than past games. Sometimes that’s not everything, but it was a good building block.”
Bryan Little’s line, with Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers, caught fire with a pair of third-period goals, while the usual staples of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor, and Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp and Brandon Tanev were strong.
“Mark Scheifele’s line feels that there’s more there for them, that they’ve got some room to improve,” Maurice said. “Lowry’s line has been consistent all year, and it took a few games for Bryan’s line to get going. It is difficult. Some of that’s minutes. One line gets going, they get playing a little more. Somebody else shaves a few minutes off, they get out of a rhythm a bit.”
Lemieux was a healthy scratch for the first five games but seems to have entrenched himself in the lineup. He got another vote of confidence Friday when the player he replaced, rookie Kristian Vesalainen, was sent to the Manitoba Moose rather than gather dust in the press box. The 19-year-old had one assist through his first five games.
“I think it’s a great line, it’s been working pretty well,” Lemieux said. “Obviously we want to produce, we want to contribute offensively and that hasn’t come yet, but I felt last game was a lot closer to what we want to see and a good step in the right direction. Our minutes got up and I felt like we brought some energy there and had some good offensive-zone time. So we were pretty happy with it and I think every game we’re building on it and looking to establish the same game (today).”
Vesalainen suited up Friday night with the AHL squad and will do so again Sunday afternoon. It’s possible he could be recalled next week.
“We don’t want, on principle, young players sitting around for long periods of time and not playing,” Maurice said. “He’s too early on in his pro career. The advantage of our American League team being at home is we can do things like that. So we want to take advantage of it.”
Nic Petan is also with the Jets as an extra forward, so Vesalainen may have a tough time getting back in the lineup any time soon with the Jets if Lemieux keeps going strong.
“He’s straight line, really fast skater, will get in there and dig out pucks for (Perreault) and I. He’s awesome, he’s been awesome to play with so far. He’s created a little bit of havoc for us,” Roslovic said.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.