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Jets shuffle forward lines in preparation for series against Calgary

"That's what we're looking for in all these adjustments, make the players around you better." -Maurice

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

WINNIPEG - Sunday was a new day for the Winnipeg Jets, and while it brought with it the usual video sessions, warm-up drills, and points of focus heading into a four-game series with the Calgary Flames, there was something new about it.

The line combinations.

Head coach Paul Maurice essentially flipped Mark Scheifele and Paul Stastny's wingers, which put Nikolaj Ehlers and Andrew Copp with Scheifele, while Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor skated with Stastny.

"I've been playing with these ideas. You do it all the time," Maurice said following Sunday's skate. "There are six guys there that we're looking to generate a certain amount of offence from and, at the same time, give up less."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

It was a change Maurice debated making in Saturday's loss to the Vancouver Canucks, but opted instead to stick with the lines he had. He felt his players had earned the right to try and come back like they had done three times prior to that night.

Ultimately, the Jets were unsuccessful in mounting a comeback this time. Vancouver outshot the Jets 31-11 over the final two periods and the Jets weren't able to generate a high-danger chance in the final 20 minutes.

None of these changes are ever carved in stone, either. The trio of Stastny, Ehlers, and Copp combined for 20 points in the three games previous to the 4-1 loss the Canucks. It's a look Maurice knows he can go back to and have success with.

The new look also means Maurice can alter how his lines match up with opponents.

"I've always wanted to be able to move Mark Scheifele around a little bit more in terms of the match-up," said Maurice. "You look at the generation over the last four years, the Lowry line had allowed me to hide young offensive players on the third line. But in order to do that, especially on the road, you were constantly running Mark against the other team's most offensive line."

Video: PRACTICE | Mark Scheifele

That match-up can pay off, Maurice said, citing the seven-game series against the Nashville Predators when Scheifele's trio went up against Ryan Johansen's line each and every night.

In a match-up like that, Maurice has often said he's looking for a "saw off" in that the two top lines cancel each other out. Over that seven-game series in 2018, Natural Stat Trick gave the nod to Scheifele's line against Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, and Johansen in shot attempt percentage (51.43 per cent), scoring chances (21-13), and expected goals (1.82-1.3).

It was an incredible performance, but one that comes with a cost night after night, season over season.

"It's also a real heavy burden to bear," said Maurice. "Sometimes you like to be able to relieve that burden and move some people around."

The full Jets line rushes looked like this:










For his part, Scheifele is excited to play with Ehlers and Copp. Both players, like Scheifele, had five-game point streaks snapped against the Canucks.

"I've played with both of them a little bit," said Scheifele. "We have skill, we have guys that can get in on the forecheck, we've got speed. We have it all, we just have to put it together and work together every single shift."

Video: PRACTICE | Dylan DeMelo

Since 2016-17, that particular trio has only seen 47:59 of five-on-five ice time together but have a shot-attempt percentage of nearly 63 per cent.

As for putting two veterans like Wheeler and Stastny together, Maurice believes the two forwards - who spent time together in Germany in 2012 during the lockout - can bring a lot to the table.

"They don't come to the rink wondering how they're going to play that night, or how hard, or what style of game," said Maurice. "Kyle (Connor) is an unusual addition to any line because that kind of speed changes the way the other group looks at them."


Adam Lowry will carry a six-game point streak into Monday's tilt with the Calgary Flames.

He assisted on Mason Appleton's first of the season in the opening period against the Canucks and now has eight points during that six-game span.

Video: PRACTICE | Adam Lowry

His line held got the better of nearly every Vancouver line they faced on Sunday, particularly the scoring chances, which were heavily in favour of Lowry's group (7-1) at five-on-five.

"We're going to try and continue that," said Lowry. "It's important that whoever you're put with, you try to get up to speed, you try and get comfortable with their style of game, try to complement them as best you can."

Lowry said the line-up changes seen on Sunday could "last a period, could last a game, or could last a few months," depending on how the season transpires.


Part of the decision, Maurice said, is the upcoming four-game series with the Flames.

"You're going into a four-game series with one team, so this gets to a bit more unique to this year, in that match-ups are going to matter," said Maurice. "How the lines match-up and the style of play comes into that."

Video: PRACTICE | Josh Morrissey

The Jets beat Calgary 4-3 in overtime back on Jan. 14 to open the season. The Flames (3-3-1) handed Montreal its first regulation loss of the season on Saturday, so the Jets know their next opponent is at the top of their game coming into Bell MTS Place.

"You can't look at the whole four-game set from now. You have to look at game one against them and go from there," said Scheifele, who scored in that season-opening win over the Flames. "There are going to be challenges in each game and we can't get too far ahead of ourselves. We have to play the right way over and over. 

"We have to be ready right from the get go, and keep adapting as the game goes on and as the shifts go on."

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