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Jets' Thorburn adding offensive touch to his game

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Winnipeg Jets forward Chris Thorburn looked like a fleet-of-foot forward with a history of scoring highlight-reel goals, which is to say the 32-year-old veteran of 608 NHL games looked nothing like himself.

Thorburn scored in the Jets season-opening 6-2 win against the Boston Bruins because he won a foot race down the ice against David Krejci, laid the shaft of his stick down to catch Drew Stafford's pass, and made a backhand-forehand move to beat goalie Tuukka Rask on the blocker side.

After scoring seven goals in 81 games last season, one fewer than he had in his previous 169 games in a Jets' uniform, Thorburn's goal in the opener has given him confidence he will contribute more to the offense this season.

"It makes you feel good, especially when you win the hockey game," Thorburn said. "But for me, it's just feeling like I contributed more than just running up and down, north and south. It also builds confidence in your linemates too. I'm playing with two new guys [Andrew Copp and Nic Petan], first years in the League, and to get that confidence to understand we're able to do that, it feels good and it's rewarding."

Chris Thorburn
Chris Thorburn
Right Wing - WPG
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 3 | +/-: 2
Copp and Petan are rookies who have speed and a history of getting on the score sheet. Petan had 89 points, including 74 assists, last season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. He's not a prototypical fourth-liner.

"Playing with the guys I'm playing with this year, they're skilled and responsible, and they bring a lot of good things to the table," Thorburn said. "They're young, they fly around. We're excited."

Thorburn is excited because scoring goals is not really his forte, even though it's something everyone who ever picked up a hockey stick loves to do. He's no different, but he also knows his role on the Jets doesn't change regardless if the puck goes into the net.

Thorburn didn't score last season until his 26th game. He didn't score until his 45th game in the 2013-14 season, when he finished with only two goals. He scored in his second game of the 2012-13 season, but then went 33 games without a goal.

Never once through those droughts did Thorburn try to change the way he played just to try to get on the board. If he did he likely would have been benched, because being effective to Thorburn means he's skating hard up and down the ice and creating havoc by throwing his body around.

"It adds something, having that feeling of a puck going in for you, but my main focus and my responsibility is to make sure I'm strong defensively because that's the way I'm going to get more ice time, get out there," Thorburn said. "To get the coach's trust defensively, the more you get out there, the more ice time you get, the more opportunities you get offensively. I've had that mindset for years, whether the goals come early or late. You just hope that they come at some point."

The first one this season came early, and it was impressive. Nine more and he'll set a career high for himself, topping his previous best of nine goals, which he scored in 82 games in the 2010-11 season with the Atlanta Thrashers.

After scoring in the opener, and particularly in the manner in which he did, it begs the question:

Does Thorburn think 10 goals is a realistic mark for him this season?

"I'm not putting a ceiling on it," he answered while laughing. "I'm not going to put a cap on it, you know. It's not like I'm going to demand the puck, right. But why not?"

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