WINNIPEG – Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane was back in the lineup Monday, but neither the player nor coach Paul Maurice shed any light on why Kane rode the bench in Toronto on the weekend.
It wasn’t his first time as a healthy scratch—he was also benched by former Jets coach Claude Noel—but Kane and Maurice kept the reasons for this one to themselves.
“I was obviously disappointed but that was his decision and that was it,” said Kane, who said he didn’t think he had to prove anything when he got back on the ice as the Jets faced the Minnesota Wild.
“Obviously you know you want to play well when you come back in the lineup and that will be part of my focus tonight.”
With team captain Andrew Ladd out of the lineup due to injury, Kane was expected to move to the team’s current No. 1 line with Bryan Little and Michael Frolik.
Maurice was no more enlightening than Kane.
“I’ve dealt with it directly and clearly with the team and the player,” he said.
“I’m done with it. I’ve given it enough emotion, attention as I need to give it.”
Maurice left it open to interpretation whether it was a play issue or a conduct issue and listed the various reasons he would make such a decision.
“The player’s individual play. Other players play. Somebody else takes their job for that night. Somebody deserves to play. Adherence to all policies of the hockey club.”
At various points he talked of rules and of play and refused to be pinned down.
Kane’s production this season has suffered both with his own injuries, and injuries to others that have left him with a revolving cast of linemates.
In 60 games this season he has 17 goals and 22 assists. In the last lockout-abbreviated season he had 17 goals and 15 assists in just 48 games.
But Maurice not only hasn’t been critical of Kane’s failure to score, he has praised him at times him for a more heads-up defensive style the coach is doing his best to encourage.
That would lend credence to the idea it might have been a violation of team rules.
Off-ice trouble continues to find Kane this season.
The latest is a lawsuit filed by a Vancouver man over an alleged assault that is said to have happened last summer. This is a civil suit and not a criminal charge and although the Vancouver police say they can’t comment on specifics, they say they looked into an incident on the night in question and found no evidence to lay charges.
The Jets, meanwhile, are out of the playoff race in the Western Conference but they played spoiler Saturday night to Toronto’s chances to move any closer to a wild-card berth in the East as they defeated the Leafs 4-2.
Ladd has a chance to return to the team, although Maurice didn’t see it as likely, but Dustin Byfuglien was also injured on the weekend and Maurice says a torn muscle will force him to miss the rest of Winnipeg’s final games this season.
His move to forward has been largely successful for the Jets. He has tied his career best with 20 goals this season and hit a new points high at 56.
With Byfuglien out, Eric Tangradi was expected to move up and anchor the other side of the Olli Jokinen-Blake Wheeler line.
Goaltender Michael Hutchinson was expected to make his NHL debut for the Jets Monday night.
He has a 15-5-1 record along with a .923 save percentage and a 2.33 goals-against average with the St. John’s IceCaps, Winnipeg’s AHL farm team.
The Jets also called up 20-goal forward Carl Klingberg from the IceCaps. He was expected to start on the team’s fourth line with Jim Slater and Anthony Peluso.
Slater, meanwhile, was playing in his milestone 500th game Monday night. He has played his entire career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise after being drafted in 2002.