WINNIPEG – After missing four games with an injured hand, forward Evander Kane is back in the Winnipeg Jets’ lineup for the first time since Paul Maurice took over as head coach.
“I don’t think my role changes too much,” Kane said Monday, as the team prepared to fly to California for games in Anaheim and San Jose.
“Obviously you are going to have to earn your ice time and play well and show him what you can do. Other guys have had three games to show what they can do and this will be my first one so I’m going to have to be good.”
The left-winger has been out since Jan. 7 when he suffered a hand injury in a fight during Winnipeg’s 4-2 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Although he’s missed 12 games due to injury this season, Kane still has 14 goals and 11 assists.
The Jets (22-23-5) have won three in a row since Maurice took over but are still a point below .500 as they face two of the toughest teams in the Western Conference. Anaheim (37-9-5) leads the conference and the NHL with 79 points and hasn’t lost a game in regulation time at home.
San Jose is 16-2-3 in their own building.
“We had as much success as we could have had this week, we won three games, so we’ll take whatever that’s worth,” said Maurice.
“I’m much more concerned that they have confidence in each other in what we’re trying to accomplish becoming more clearly defined. I feel in practice that I’m seeing the things we’ve asked them to do come a little bit easier.”
Maurice said Kane will skate on a line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.
“I like the possibilities of that line. I’d like to think I’m going to have some patience with it cause I’d like to see it work. At the same time I do have another lineup, I’ve got another place as well that I wouldn’t mind seeing him because he’s a real strong player and he can be a real benefit to whoever he plays with.”
While on paper the Jets seem no match for either Anaheim or San Jose, “I’ve never felt that on a one game,” said Maurice.
“Over the course of the season yes, in any one game no, the best is not that far from the bottom and that’s why it’s a competition.”
Kane’s father will also be on the road swing, along with other dads as the team hosts a father-son trip.
Wheeler says it feels a lot better heading west with three wins behind them instead of three more losses and some confidence that they are playing the way their new coach wants.
“It definitely helps to have that confidence, the way we’re playing and what we’re doing,” he said.
He also said they’ve been pretty comfortable from the start with what Maurice has been urging them to do.
“I think he’s trying to utilize the things we do the best to give ourselves a chance to win. He’s trying to use our team speed, use our size, things that we do well to give us an opportunity to play our best every night.”
Meanwhile, with Dustin Byfuglien’s move to forward, rookie defenceman Jacob Trouba is seeing a lot of ice time.
“We’re not running him against the other team’s best all night long,” said Maurice, but he added that he feels Trouba can hold his own and needs to learn to compete with the best.
“There’s going to be some mistakes, we live with those.”
Trouba had a pair of goals—including the overtime winner—Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers. Trouba is now second among all rookie defencemen in goals with seven this season and trails only Boston’s Torey Krug who has 10. In points Trouba sits fifth among rookie defencemen with 16.