Pierre-Luc Dubois knows he’s not Mark Scheifele, but after moving to center on the Winnipeg Jets first line in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Second Round against the Montreal Canadiens, he’s going to have to make tangible contributions.
The Jets lost the first two games of the series at home, 5-3 and 1-0, and Scheifele, Winnipeg’s top center, will serve the second game of his four-game suspension in Game 3 at Bell Centre on Sunday (6 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS, SN).
Dubois will again center the line with Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor on Sunday, when Winnipeg will try to avoid falling behind 3-0 in the series.
“To be honest, I don’t see it as filling in for Mark,” Dubois said Saturday. “He’s a fantastic player. He’s his own player. I’m my own player. If I try to play like him I’m not helping my team, not helping my teammates out. I have to do what I do best and I don’t see it as shoes to fill. I just see it as doing what I do best, doing what I can to help this team win.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, but at the same time I know when to relax and just go play. There’s nothing you can do to control the surroundings or the circumstances. The only thing you can do is just try to bring your best game to the table.”
Dubois has three assists in five games this postseason. He was held without a point in Game 2 but played 20:09. It was the most ice time the 22-year-old has had in a game since being acquired by the Jets in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 23, except for the 24:07 he played in a 4-3 triple-overtime victory in Game 4 of the first-round sweep of the Edmonton Oilers.
Dubois scored 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) in 46 games this season, but has no goals since he scored twice against the Ottawa Senators on April 5, a span of 22 games and 35 shots on goal. In his first 29 games this season for the Blue Jackets and Jets, he scored 17 points (nine goals, eight assists).
Scheifele led Winnipeg during the regular season with 63 points (21 goals, 42 assists) in 56 games, and scored five points (two goals, three assists) in five playoff games. He was suspended by the NHL Department of Player Safety for charging against Jake Evans after the Canadiens forward scored an empty-net goal with 53 seconds remaining in Game 1. Scheifele, who received a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct, would be eligible to return in Game 6, if necessary; Evans has a concussion and is out indefinitely.
With veteran center Paul Stastny also a question mark for Game 3, having missed the first two games of the series with an undisclosed injury, Dubois knows the spotlight on him is increasing, partly because he led the Blue Jackets in the playoffs last season with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 10 games, including four points (three goals, one assist) in five games during a victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
“A big part of my game is just skating, getting my legs going,” Dubois said. “Last year in the postseason was last year and this year is this year. For me, it’s just getting to my game of moving out there, creating space for my wingers, creating space for the defensemen, going to the net, trying to attract guys to me and give time and space for everybody out there with me.”
Coach Paul Maurice said he believes Dubois’ size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), mobility and physicality are tools made for the playoffs.
“That’s something he can build on,” Maurice said. “It’s not just finishing checks and those kind of things, he can take people to the net. He was really good in that series [against Toronto]. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, though. If you play Toronto, things tend to get magnified. It’s just a thought. I don’t know if I can prove that. He was good in that series and physically dominant. We think he can do some things that use speed and size with the puck. We saw pieces of that. We think he can get to the net.”
The difficulty in that increases for Game 3, when the Canadiens will have the last change on home ice, but the goal will be the same.
“[Dubois will have] more minutes against what will be a heavier shutdown line,” Maurice said. “That didn’t really happen very much here in the first two [games]; it’s going to happen more in the next two. And then, in as much as we win our first two games of the Edmonton series and Mark’s not on the board for those, you don’t give anything up. And at some point you’ve got to be one better than the line you’re playing against. That’s all.”
Dubois said patience will be the key for himself and for the Jets to make progress from being behind 2-0 in the series.
“I thought [in Game 2] we had some good looks, we had some good chances,” he said. “We missed some shots, but when you’re playing against a top goalie (Carey Price), you can’t lose confidence in shooting the puck. I thought we really brought the pressure there in the second half of the game, in the last two periods. When you do that, I think it’s a recipe for success.
“Obviously we didn’t win yesterday, but if you’re applying pressure like that, getting shots off like that, more often than not you’re going to be happy with the result.”