Byfuglien still out, Lemieux gets season debut tonight

Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien (upper-body injury) will miss his second consecutive game, but third-year pro Brendan Lemieux will make his regular-season debut when the Winnipeg Jets (3-2-0) host the Edmonton Oilers (1-2-0) at Bell MTS Place tonight.

Game time is 7 p.m.

Lemieux is expected to slot in on the club’s fourth line, replacing rookie Kristian Vesalainen, with centre Jack Roslovic and right-winger Mathieu Perreault.

“He had a really good camp with a physical maturity,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice, explaining his decision to insert Lemieux. “He’s a powerful man along the walls, he can get off the walls to the front of the net. He’s got a really, really good hard release. And for a guy that I think you would categorize as a grinder, he makes some plays with the puck.

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Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien (upper-body injury) will miss his second consecutive game, but third-year pro Brendan Lemieux will make his regular-season debut when the Winnipeg Jets (3-2-0) host the Edmonton Oilers (1-2-0) at Bell MTS Place tonight.

Game time is 7 p.m.

Lemieux is expected to slot in on the club’s fourth line, replacing rookie Kristian Vesalainen, with centre Jack Roslovic and right-winger Mathieu Perreault.

“He had a really good camp with a physical maturity,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice, explaining his decision to insert Lemieux. “He’s a powerful man along the walls, he can get off the walls to the front of the net. He’s got a really, really good hard release. And for a guy that I think you would categorize as a grinder, he makes some plays with the puck.

“So he’s going to have a lot of energy and physicality to his game but we’re looking for good solid shifts defensively from that line but we are looking to generate some offence there.”

Byfuglien skated prior to the club’s morning skate and while his condition had improved, Maurice said the veteran isn’t ready.

Lemieux, who tallied one goal in nine games with the Jets last season, played the bulk of the 2017-18 season in the AHL, registering 19 goals and 43 points and 170 penalty minutes in 51 games with the Manitoba Moose.

“I think it’s the same as in the pre-season and in training camp, just practising here and taking it shift by shift and minute by minute,” said Lemieux. “I’ve got two highly skilled linemates I’m excited about playing with. It should be fun.”

Lemieux believes he’s a very good fit with Perreault and Roslovic.

“Matty’s obviously a veteran, he can play up and down the lineup and he’s got high-end skill and Rosie’s one of the higher-end skilled guys on the team who was obviously dominant in the American League last year and when he came up at the end of the year he was a heck of a player for them in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s exciting, those are the kinds of guys I want to play with.

“Right-handed centremen suit my game really well and now it’s just about me establishing my game and it looks nothing like what theirs is. But it’s doing that so they can play theirs to the highest level and sometimes that’s (what) sandpaper and skill looks like on a line.”

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

Read full biography