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Benn paired with DeMelo on Wednesday, could make Jets debut on Thursday

"He felt strong after the two days of practice and we want to look at it." -Maurice

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

WINNIPEG - Jordie Benn could make his Winnipeg Jets debut on Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 33-year-old was paired with Dylan DeMelo at Wednesday's practice.

"I'm ready to go. I've been skating hard," Benn said following practice yesterday, one day prior to being in paired DeMelo. "All through the four lines and our D-men and the goalies are unbelievable. It's nice to be on their side."

As for DeMelo, he's seen a few different defensive partners as the season has gone on.

That list includes Josh Morrissey, Logan Stanley, Ville Heinola, Sami Niku, and Nathan Beaulieu.

Based on what DeMelo has seen from Benn during the latter's time in Vancouver, he knows what to expect from his newest partner.

"When we played them this year, he was the guy I was impressed with," DeMelo said. "He played with (Quinn) Hughes and played top minutes, and held his own playing on his off side. It's not easy for a defenceman to play his off side in this league. That speaks to him as a player and the type of person he is."

Other than the tweak on the blue line, Jets head coach Paul Maurice kept the rest of the line rushes the same during the 45-minute session.








The session started, as Maurice referenced earlier in the week, with some power play work. Blake Wheeler - who is expected to return to the Jets line-up tomorrow night against Toronto after missing six games with a concussion - was back in his regular spot on the power play with Mark Scheifele, Paul Stastny, Kyle Connor, and Josh Morrissey.

"He's back right, and maybe then some, from where he left off," Maurice said of Wheeler. "We'll always wait until the morning skate the next day before we take a guy off IR just to make sure. He's back, a big strong powerful forechecker that can make plays."

Winnipeg's power play had found the back of the net six times in the past four games prior to being blanked on Saturday by the Edmonton Oilers penalty kill, which has been the NHL's best since Mar. 15 at 91.2 percent.

Video: PRACTICE | Jordie Benn

In that same time span, the Jets penalty kill is 10th in the league - even after giving up two power play markers in the 3-0 loss to the Oilers.

Still, the Jets are confident in both of their special teams - which have been an asset on numerous occasions this season.

"I think our coaches do a good job of breaking it down and showing you their tendencies and things like that," said Trevor Lewis. "Whether it is (Auston) Matthews or (Connor) McDavid, trying to force them into a spot where they're not as comfortable as they would be from the top of the circle walking into a one-time or something like that. 

"I think we do a good job of pre-scouting and then on the ice you see something and you talk about it when you come off the ice, for sure."

Allowing more than one goal on the penalty kill has been rare for the Jets this season. Saturday was the first time that had happened to the Jets since Jan. 26.

"We've done a good job on the PK for the majority of the season and usually when we've allowed a few, we've really clamped it down going forward or in the next games following maybe a bad outing," said DeMelo. "I think we did a lot of good things. They had an extra player than we did, they executed and they've got some good players and they got a couple on us."

The Jets have killed off 17 of the 19 power play chances the Maple Leafs have had against them in the eight meetings this season.

In fact, they've gone 16-for-16 since the third match-up of the campaign.

They're not taking those numbers for granted though.

"What's been good about all of the teams penalty kill is that we're seeing some pretty powerful power plays, Edmonton is up there, Toronto is up there and they were certainly leading the league for an awfully long time," said Maurice. "Every time one of those power play units gets on the ice, it's dangerous. I don't think that you get on a three or a four kill run and feel like that gives you a better chance to kill the fifth one."

Winnipeg has two games with the Maple Leafs and another two against the Oilers to close out the five-game home stand.

Video: PRACTICE | Trevor Lewis

Both the Jets and Oilers are chasing the Maple Leafs for top spot in the North, with just five points separating the three teams.

"Obviously, this year we've played every team enough to know what their tendencies are," said Trevor Lewis. "But definitely the intensity starts to rise and every team's getting ready for the playoffs and you know you could see those teams, too. They're definitely big games and I think you'll see the intensity raised a lot, for sure."

Just as Winnipeg's line-up will have a different wrinkle in it with Benn in the line-up, it's expected that Toronto could have their trade deadline acquisitions (Nick Foligno and Ben Hutton) available for Thursday as well.

"Usually when you put some new guys in, it's not really the new guys that do a lot. It's kind of a little bit of a show and tell for everybody else, they all want to look good in front of the new guy," said Maurice. "The teams that are further ahead, when they add new guys it's a little exciting in maybe a grind part of their schedule. Now, Edmonton, Toronto, and Winnipeg have got lots of reasons to be excited about these games, so I don't think we're going to be short on it anyway tomorrow."

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