WHEELER AT CENTRE
With the loss of Bryan Little for the foreseeable future, Blake Wheeler moves to the middle between Nikolaj Ehlers and Jack Roslovic. Fortunately, this is not something that is new for the captain who played centre for the Jets when Mark Scheifele went down with a shoulder injury and missed 16 games two seasons ago. Winnipeg went 11-2-3 in his absence thanks to the performance of Wheeler who recorded 16 points (5G, 1A) over that stretch of time. It also means that Wheeler will get to touch the puck more considering that centres tend to touch the puck 10 per cent more than wingers do through an average NHL game.
SCHEIFELE NEW LOOK
This isn't the first time that Scheifele and Wheeler have been separated this season, but it is the first time that Wheeler will centre his own line in 2019-20. Scheifele will team up with Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor and the 2019 All-Star is looking forward to the new look.
"We have a lot of skilled players on this team," said Scheifele.
"A lot of guys that can create so obviously it's a very different look but definitely excited for the new look to see how it goes."
ANOTHER PP LOOK
Not only are Wheeler and Scheifele separated at 5-on-5, Maurice has put them on different power play units as well. Scheifele will centre the first group along with Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey, Andrew Copp and Ehlers. Meanwhile, Wheeler will be with the second group alongside Laine, Mathieu Perreault, Neal Pionk and Roslovic.
"It's fun for the coach because the second unit has some good players. Whatever unit that second unit is, they want to go," smiled Maurice.
"Puts some pressure on the first unit to get their business done and get off the ice, it will be good."
After an impressive training camp and putting up three assists in nine games in the American Hockey League with the Manitoba Moose, Joona Luoto makes his NHL debut tonight. Luoto has often said his style of play fits in with the North American game and he is not shy to use the body or block shots.
"This is one thing I've been working on and now I'm really excited." said Luoto.
The Finnish forward will skate on a line with David Gustafsson and Logan Shaw.
SPEAKING OF GUS…
The Swedish rookie forward will play in his 10th NHL game this evening which means the first year of his entry level contract will kick in. Gustafsson has been a consistent performer in his previous nine games and is looking for that first NHL point while averaging exactly six minutes of ice-time per contest.
"It's about experience and time," said Maurice.
"What's different about keeping David around now as a 19-year-old is that he's actually training for the job that he'll start with in the National Hockey League."