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Maurice likes Eakin's defensive game, plans to start him at centre

"He's at his best in that big game, energy and edge kind of game." -Maurice

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

PHILADELPHIA - Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice won't have Cody Eakin in the line-up today against the Philadelphia Flyers, but he's excited at what the 28-year-old will bring to the group when he joins the team for tomorrow's tilt in Buffalo.

"We wanted a guy that can make his regular season game wired to get ready for the playoffs. He knows we're playing important games right now," said Maurice. "That's the way he's built to play. He's at his best in that big game, energy and edge kind of game. He's coming into it here in Winnipeg."

Outside of his first NHL season with the Washington Capitals in 2011-12, Eakin has spent his entire career in the Western Conference. When the National Hockey League re-aligned the four divisions and put the Jets into the Central with the Dallas Stars to begin the 2013-14, Eakin was a familiar opponent.

Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice

Eakin was then selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft on June 22, 2017. He was part of the Vegas squad that faced off with the Jets in the 2018 Western Conference Final, then scored a career-high 22 goals in 2018-19.

"When you look at the structure of Vegas, at times Dallas, but more specifically Vegas - they have two offensive lines and Eakin's line would come out and play and produce against your line," said Maurice. "Where they had the advantage is they started running him against (Mark) Scheifele, or they'd run him against Bryan Little, and that broke one of those other lines loose. That's the challenge. 

"He not only didn't give you anything, but he wasn't a guy that dumped the puck in every time and sat back at the red line. They were aggressive on you, they got in the corners, scored some big goals against us, set up big goals, killed penalties, and blocked shots."

This season, Eakin sustained an upper-body injury in late November that kept him out until January 11. In 41 games, the Winnipeg product has four goals and 10 points.

"He can make plays. He can shoot the puck," Maurice said. "He's a gamer. We've got some really fine guys in our room and we have a bunch of guys that can benefit from being around that kind of player."

With Adam Lowry not on the road trip, but skating back in Winnipeg alongside injured fellow injured forward Mathieu Perreault, Eakin's arrival ensures Lowry doesn't have to rush back until he's 100 per cent healed from the injury he suffered against Chicago on January 19.

When Eakin does join the Jets line-up, Maurice will start him at centre and adjust from there.

"We've learned this year that every time we write something down on paper, it gets changed by the game before because we've had so many injuries," Maurice said." We've had our run at injuries at centre that have been a real challenge for us to manage."

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