WINNIPEG — Jets head coach Paul Maurice didn’t wait long to try out some new lines at training camp.
He shifted longtime centre Bryan Little to right wing with sophomore centre Adam Lowry and captain Andrew Ladd on the first day of camp Friday morning at the MTS Iceplex.
Maurice informed Little of the move last week and he’s OK with it.
“The way he brought it up, I think it’s more of a trial right now to see how it goes,” Little said. “I think training camp is a time of the year when you can experiment a bit and fool around with the lines, so I’m glad we’re doing it right now to see if it works out before the season gets going.”
Maurice said the switch was one of two or three he plans to try with the 55 players at camp, just to be prepared in case injuries force changes during the season.
“We saw last year when Bryan got injured, Adam went into the middle with Ladd and (Michael) Frolik and was really effective there,” Maurice said. “And I really like the way (Lowry) played in the playoffs under heavier competition so it’s an idea.
“We know that Bryan has been really productive on the wing.”
About seven to 10 days into camp, Little will go back to centre and he’ll look at a different unit, Maurice said, adding the team’s top nine forwards include five who can play centre.
Little played on the wing early in his career with the Atlanta Thrashers, netting 31 goals in 2008-’09, but had 13 the next season.
“That was six or seven years ago so it’s definitely been a while since I’ve played wing, but I think for a centreman it’s definitely an easier adjustment to getting switched to the wing than for a winger to try and play centre,” Little said.
“(Maurice) said if I have a problem with it or if I feel it’s not working out, to tell him. So right now, it is kind of a go and see how it plays out.”
The Jets’ top line has usually been Ladd, Little and Blake Wheeler, but last season Frolik and Wheeler were sometimes switched.
Wheeler skated with Drew Stafford and centre Mark Scheifele when a second group of skaters hit the ice in the afternoon session. Frolik signed with the Calgary Flames in the off-season.
Ladd liked what he saw last season skating with the six-foot-four Lowry.
“Obviously, a big body that’s very responsible in his own end and there’s more to his game offensively,” Ladd said. “It’s something to look at and we’ll see how it works out.”
Lowry played 80 games in his rookie season and had 11 goals and 23 points. Getting a chance to set up Ladd and Little has him excited.
“It’s always nice to get the opportunity to play with two players like that,” Lowry said. “Obviously nothing is set in stone, but to go into camp and play with (Ladd) and (Little) is a great opportunity for me.”
He said he wanted to improve and expand his role this season and the experiment could give him that opportunity.
“Now there’s going to be greater expectation going into your second season in the NHL,” Lowry said. “Playing alongside those guys, at least to start, there’s going to be some expectations to contribute right away.”
Maurice said defenceman Grant Clitsome, recovering from a second back surgery, didn’t pass his physical and won’t play this season. Blue-liner Tyler Myers also didn’t skate, with Maurice saying it was a minor issue.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press