Pierre-Luc Dubois said he was relieved to have his first game with the Winnipeg Jets behind him and believes his play will improve in the days ahead.
“I think the legs, the hands, the head, you’re trying to get everything back and felt as the game went on, I was getting some things back, but I can play a lot better than that,” Dubois said following a 3-2 loss at the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.
Dubois was acquired by the Jets in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for forwards Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic on Jan. 23. Winnipeg also received a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
After the trade, Dubois had to complete a 14-day quarantine required by Canada regulations on COVID-19 for anyone crossing the Canada-United States border. Because he missed seven games while in quarantine, Winnipeg’s game against Calgary was the first Dubois played since Jan. 21, when he took five shifts (3:55 of ice time) in the first period for the Blue Jackets against the Tampa Bay Lightning before being benched.
He started the game for the Jets at center on a line with Kyle Connor and Trevor Lewis, but coach Paul Maurice moved Mason Appleton up to the line in place of Lewis to start the second period.
Dubois finished with no shot attempts, a minus-1 rating and was 3-for-9 on face-offs in 13:10, although he did create two dangerous scoring chances by driving to the net, one in the second period and the other in the third.
“I think the biggest jump, the biggest challenge, is to get back into game rhythm,” Dubois said. “Last game I played was Game 4 of the season and then Game 5, that’s kind of preseason games right there because we didn’t have them. Now it’s Game 15, the season’s well underway.
“During seasons, there’s always steps that you take. There’s a step midway through the season after a couple of games at Christmas, then the playoff race then the playoffs. My goal is just to kind of skip that step of the preseason games and get right to where we’re at right now.”
Before the game, Maurice said not to put too much stock into Dubois’ first game with Winnipeg, yet despite the loss, the coach said the 22-year-old’s debut was a success.
“The exciting part (is) he’s going to just keep getting better and better because he’s a powerful man,” Maurice said. “There looks like there won’t be holes in his game. He defended well, battled hard, made smart plays, showed some real nice finesse picking a stick in the offensive zone to open up a chance, so this guy’s going to be a big, powerful guy. He’ll get more ice time as we get moving forward and he gets his sea legs.”
Forward Andrew Copp said Dubois has made a good first impression with his new team.
“You see it’s all there, right?” Copp said. “The speed, the strength, the playmaking ability, the reads. He’s going to be a great player for us. Really looking forward to having him get comfortable. He’s fit in really well in the room so far.”
For Dubois, the most encouraging thing about his debut was his in-game adjustments.
“I think as the game got underway and as the minutes kept going down, I felt better and better,” Dubois said. “I think the legs, the head and the hands for me are three things that there’s a little adjustment, and as the game went on, I felt like I was reading plays faster. I was reading positioning faster where in the first period or so, I thought it took me a little bit too long to read. So I think practice and video and games, slowly it’ll come back.”
The next opportunity Dubois will have to get it back will be Thursday, when Jets host the Ottawa Senators (8 p.m. ET; TSN3, TSN5, RDS2, NHL.TV).