Young cen­tre might be just what Laine, Eh­lers need to get go­ing, writes Ken Wiebe

Regina Leader-Post - - SPORTS - Kwiebe@post­ Twit­­sun­sports

WIN­NIPEG The flashes have been ap­par­ent from Jack Roslovic dur­ing his lim­ited ac­tion.

The most no­table mo­ment was a cre­ative and ex­plo­sive rush against the Los An­ge­les Kings on Tues­day, when Roslovic made a slick move to cre­ate a scor­ing chance for him­self.

The Win­nipeg Jets cen­tre fin­ished Thurs­day’s 3-0 loss to the Nashville Preda­tors in be­tween Pa­trik Laine and Niko­laj Eh­lers.

Whether that’s a sign of things to come when the Jets re­turn to prac­tice af­ter us­ing Fri­day as a day of rest re­mains to be seen, but you can be sure it’s some­thing head coach Paul Mau­rice has taken un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

The Jets are 2-2-0 out of the gate and have a date with the up­start Carolina Hur­ri­canes com­ing on Sun­day.

In two of the con­tests, a 5-1 win over the St Louis Blues and a 2-1 vic­tory over the Kings, the Jets show­cased the brand of hockey that has them men­tioned in many cir­cles as a le­git­i­mate Stan­ley Cup con­tender.

A lop­sided 5-1 loss to the Dal­las Stars was a clas­sic ex­am­ple of what hap­pens when the Jets don’t play up to pace.

Thurs­day’s tilt against the Preda­tors was a wild af­fair, one that saw the Jets gen­er­ate am­ple pres­sure at even strength — in what lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties there were in be­tween the pa­rade to the penalty box.

But this isn’t a col­umn about the need for the Jets to limit the nu­mer­ous stick fouls — most of which were too ob­vi­ous to ig­nore as Win­nipeg was faced with killing off the first eight power plays of the con­test.

Penalty trou­ble is an area that will be ad­dressed by the Jets in their video meet­ings.

The larger is­sue at hand is what to do to try to get Laine and Eh­lers go­ing.

Laine (44) and Eh­lers (29) com­bined for 73 goals last sea­son and spent much of the cam­paign play­ing to­gether.

They were separated for a good chunk of the first two games, but have been re­united for much of the past two.

Eh­lers was a bit more dan­ger­ous the past two, earn­ing some praise from Mau­rice in his postgame meet­ing with mem­bers of the me­dia on Thurs­day.

As for Laine, he’s gone three games since find­ing the back of the net on his first shot at­tempt of the sea­son, a power-play marker that car­omed in off Blues de­fence­man Colton Parayko.

It’s easy to say it’s not work­ing with Bryan Lit­tle be­tween the young skilled for­wards — and the al­ter­na­tive for Mau­rice right now would be to move Roslovic up onto the line.

Yes, there is a rolling-the-dice el­e­ment to that move, as there isn’t a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence with the trio.

There’s also a great deal of po­ten­tial.

There could be some chal­lenges in the de­fen­sive zone, but the case for giv­ing it a shot would be that adding the ex­tra speed el­e­ment in Roslovic could lead to hav­ing the puck more and spend­ing more time in the of­fen­sive zone.

Lit­tle is a re­spon­si­ble two-way player and has some built-in chem­istry play­ing with Math­ieu Per­reault, an­other guy who needs to get go­ing of­fen­sively.

Play­ing them to­gether with Kristian Ve­salainen could be a way to spark both lines. It also could pro­vide a bit more bal­ance in terms of ice-time dis­tri­bu­tion.

Mau­rice was staunch in his sup­port of Lit­tle on the first day of train­ing camp and it’s not a sur­prise he started with a vet­eran in the job.

It also made sense to see if things might click, af­ter Laine dropped 15 pounds dur­ing the off-sea­son.

But so far, there haven’t been many strides taken.

Al­though the line had strong pos­ses­sion num­bers on Thurs­day, Laine was lim­ited to one shot on goal and Lit­tle didn’t have any but did a nice job dur­ing the 4:03 of short-handed time he played.

If Mau­rice be­lieves Roslovic is ready for the in­creased re­spon­si­bil­ity, he won’t hes­i­tate to put him there.

The premise is that by al­low­ing Roslovic some ad­di­tional time to ad­just to be­com­ing a reg­u­lar cen­tre, the 2015 first-rounder even­tu­ally will blos­som in the role.

The counter ar­gu­ment is that the Jets have been too re­liant on the top line of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Con­nor when it comes to pro­vid­ing the of­fence.

They’ve de­liv­ered five of the eight goals the Jets have scored this sea­son.

The unit fea­tur­ing Adam Lowry be­tween An­drew Copp and Bran­don Tanev has been solid, but the Jets need some pro­duc­tion from the other two lines in or­der to be an ef­fec­tive team.

Since Mau­rice doesn’t re­ally want to tinker with ei­ther the Scheifele or Lowry lines, the next op­tion is flip-flop­ping Lit­tle and Roslovic.

It’s a log­i­cal step, though de­lay­ing the in­evitable in this case might al­low the op­por­tu­nity for greater suc­cess a lit­tle fur­ther down the road.

How­ever, if the Lit­tle line doesn’t find a way to be a bit more dan­ger­ous of­fen­sively, Mau­rice may have to speed up the process.

If coach Paul Mau­rice be­lieves Jack Roslovic is ready for the in­creased re­spon­si­bil­ity, he won’t hes­i­tate to put him there.


Jack Roslovic fin­ished Thurs­day’s 3-0 Jets loss to the Nashville Preda­tors by cen­tring Pa­trik Laine and Niko­laj Eh­lers.

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