WINNIPEG — Pierre-Luc Dubois practiced with the Winnipeg Jets for the first time Sunday after a 14-day quarantine and said he has no concerns about being ready for his first game with his new team Tuesday.
“It felt good to finally get out there,” Dubois said. “Just two weeks of working out in your living room keeps you, to a certain extent, in good shape, but there’s nothing like skating out there.”
The center was traded to Winnipeg by the Columbus Blue Jackets for forwards Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic on Jan 23. Canada law required him to quarantine after crossing the border from the United States.
He was able to skate on his own Saturday, but Sunday was his first time on the ice with the Jets ahead of their game at the Calgary Flames on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; ESPN+. SNW, TSN3, NHL.TV).
“It’s probably not where I left off before the quarantine,” Dubois said. “Obviously you lose some of that because there’s nothing like skating and playing and practicing.
“I felt good out there today, I’ll have another practice here tomorrow and I’ll have a morning skate before the game. I think it will be enough practices for me to at least feel good about myself.”
Dubois skated on a line with wings Kyle Connor and Trevor Lewis, and on the second power-play unit. Connor leads the Jets with seven goals in 11 games and his 12 points are tied with forward Nikolaj Ehlers for second behind Mark Scheifele (14). Lewis, who won the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014, has scored two points (one goal, one assist) in 11 games.
“Two amazing players,” Dubois said. “[Connor] is one of the most underrated players in the NHL and [Lewis] brings that experience, just helping me with all the systems and everything. He can pass the puck, he works really hard, so it felt really great to be out there with those two.”
Jets coach Paul Maurice said he detected no conditioning issues with Dubois.
“He handled practice without a problem,” Maurice said. “You wouldn’t have been able to come to the rink and pick the guy that’s been in quarantine for two weeks out. He pushed himself, I think, as much as he could when he was off the ice. And I think he’ll just get stronger and faster. But he looked right on the ice.
“I haven’t been on the ice (previously) in practice with the man, but I’ve watched him play enough of his NHL career that, yeah, there wasn’t a noticeable drop-off from what I’ve seen on video.”
Winnipeg (7-3-1) is third in the Scotia North Division with Dubois joining centers Scheifele, Paul Stastny, Adam Lowry, Nate Thompson and David Gustafsson. The Jets also have Lewis and Andrew Copp who are natural centers.
“So we have now a depth at center that we’ve never had,” Maurice said. “We’re eventually going to have to move some centermen out to the wings and that is a far easier transition than coming from the wing to the middle. So we’ve got some good size down the middle now as well and it really should help us, we feel, defensively.
“We’re lucky, being able to add a centerman like Pierre-Luc (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) is such a rare thing to be able to do, especially one that young and who’s also had a big chunk of his development time handled already. So we’ve gotten ourselves to a really good depth situation at center ice, and now we have to maximize it.”
Dubois scored one goal in five games for the Blue Jackets this season and has 159 points (66 goals, 93 assists) in 239 games in his three-plus NHL seasons. The 22-year-old said he’s always believed versatility was an asset.
“My dad always told me that if you can play every forward position, you’re really helping the team out, you’re helping the coach out and making his life easier,” Dubois said. “And playing center is a tough position but I think a lot of us can play on the wings and it could be any line and you could play anywhere in the lineup. … I think it really helps a team out when there are so many centermen in the lineup.”
Photos: John Delaney/Winnipeg Jets