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Connor gets chance in Jets' top six with injury to Perreault

20-year-old forward to skate on second line with Little, Laine against Blue Jackets on Tuesday

by Scott Billeck / NHL.com Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- Forward Kyle Connor is expected to make his season debut in a top-six role for the Winnipeg Jets against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bell MTS Place on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; TSN3, FS-O, NHL.TV).

Connor was recalled from Manitoba of the American Hockey League on Monday after the Jets placed forward Mathieu Perreault on injured reserve. 

Perreault sustained a lower-body injury in a 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.

"It's a great opportunity every time you step on the ice," Connor said after practice at Bell MTS Iceplex on Monday. "Every shift, you have to go out there and prove yourself and play the best you can. 

"It's always exciting [getting back into the lineup] and, for me, just trying to play the same game I've been playing since the start of the year."

Video: NSH@WPG: Lowry, Connor connect on give-and-go

Connor had five points (three goals, two assists) in four games for Manitoba. 

The 20-year-old, selected in the first round (No. 17) of the 2015 NHL Draft, was among Winnipeg's final cuts at the end of training camp. 

"It wasn't a goal of mine, but it happens for a reason and you can't dwell on it," Connor said about being sent down to the AHL. "You have to look forward and try to improve."

Jets coach Paul Maurice said Connor responded well after his demotion.

"I think he went down and played hard, practiced hard," Maurice said. "I talked to [Manitoba coach Pascal Vincent] just about every day about where those guys are at. So he did it the right way. 

"I would think he was very disappointed, as they all are. But [he] turns around and now he gets a chance. And it's a top-six chance and he's going to have to work really hard to keep that. We've got other players there that want that opportunity too. So he has to perform. He doesn't have to put pucks in the net. He has to show that he's getting chances, but that's not the big one. He's going to play on that line, you're drawing the other team's better players, you're drawing the other team's better defense. So he needs to be able to play at that level."

Connor will skate at left wing on the second line with center Bryan Little and right wing Patrik Laine. 

"They're both really great players," Connor said. "I think I can bring some speed to the table and I think our playmaking ability, I think we can all move the puck around and have the ability to finish. It's going to be exciting and I'm looking forward to it." 

Video: DAL@WPG: Connor finishes the rush for first NHL goal

Maurice is looking to replace speed with speed on Winnipeg's second line in Perreault's absence, a role he said Connor can fit seamlessly. 

"That's the big piece he can add to that line," Maurice said. "Patrik's such a great shooter, Bryan's a really quick player. What Perreault did well is he got in and he got on it. He was quick enough to get in there to create some offensive zone time and allow those guys time to do the things they do well. And Kyle should be able to add that."

Connor had five points (two goals, three assists) in 20 games for the Jets last season. He was sent down on Dec. 9 and recalled for Winnipeg's final game on April 8, when he scored in a 2-1 win against the St. Louis Blues. 

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