TORONTO – Jets coach Paul Maurice said Saturday morning that he would dress his best lineup as they prepared for the Maple Leafs.
But by the time the puck dropped at Air Canada Centre, Winnipeg forward Evander Kane had been listed as a healthy scratch as the Jets went on to deliver a severe blow to Toronto’s playoff hopes with a 4-2 win.
“That was a coach’s decision,” explained Maurice. “You’ll get no rationale from me. You’ve seen me on TV before. There’s nothing rational out of my mouth.”
Devin Setoguchi, who was a healthy scratch in four of the past five games, replaced Kane and played 13 minutes on a line with Eric O’Dell and Matt Halischuk.
Kane, who has just two goals and 12 points in his past 21 games, is in the second year of his six-year, $31.5 million contract, which carries a cap hit of $4.5 million this year before going up to $6 million a year in each of the final four seasons of the deal.
The 22-year-old Vancouver native had a career-high 30 goals during the 2011-12 season and followed it up with 17 goals in the lockout shortened 48-game 2012-13 season. But Kane has just 17 goals and 39 points in 60 games this season.
Asked what Kane had to do to return to the lineup, Maurice said, “probably just come to the rink.”
Kane was seen outside the Jets locker-room post-game speaking with his agent, but declined to comment on being a healthy scratch.
The scratch adds to a tough week for Kane as it was revealed Thursday that he was being sued in B.C. over an alleged assault charge stemming from an incident in August 2013.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd said Kane would have to put the situation behind him and move on.
“It’s one of those things, he’s got to bounce back and come to work the next day,” said Ladd. “For us, it was more important to focus on this game and make sure we were ready to get the two points.”
Maurice had Dustin Byfuglien in the lineup to start Saturday night, but he left with 4:55 remaining in the second period with what the coach described as an upper-body injury.
Maurice said Byfuglien was day-to-day and that he would be re-evaluated when the team got back to Winnipeg.
Byfuglien started the game on a line with Olli Jokinen and Blake Wheeler.