MONTREAL - It was an efficient 25 minutes of practice for the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, but perhaps some of the best news came before the session even started.
Andrew Copp - who had been wearing a non-contact jersey for the last few sessions - took to the ice in a regular, full contact jersey 15 minutes before the practice was scheduled to take place.
He kept it on throughout the skate and feels optimistic about his availability for Monday's tilt with the Montreal Canadiens.
"I feel good about where I'm at right now and ready to go for tomorrow," said Copp. "It was good to get out of the non-contact and take some bumps and feel good."
Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice
Copp suffered an upper-body injury on December 17 against the Carolina Hurricanes and at the time, head coach Paul Maurice listed the forward as week-to-week, adding it could be as long as four weeks before Copp could return.
Now, 19 days since the injury, Maurice says the Jets will wait until the last minute to take Copp off injured reserve to ensure he's 100 per cent.
"He has to come to the rink tomorrow feeling as good as he's leaving today," Maurice said.
Copp was in his regular spot on the left wing with Adam Lowry and Mathieu Perreault during practice. At the time of his injury, Copp had five goals and 14 points in 34 games.
In addition to the offensive numbers that continue to grow as the seasons go on, Copp is also an extremely reliable player in the defensive zone and plays alongside Lowry on the penalty kill.
In short, the versatile forward gives Maurice options.
"You have to be a four-line hockey team. I think Adam Lowry is so much more effective with Andrew Copp and I think that's true with Andrew," said Maurice.
"It also gives us some options. We have some young forwards that sometimes need to come out of bigger minutes and you can move Andrew Copp up, you can move him to the middle. Having him back, I just like him with Lowry so much, but it also gives me the option to not play those two guys together."
With Copp on the ice, Dmitry Kulikov still in a non-contact jersey, and two players absent from the practice (Blake Wheeler and Luca Sbisa), the Jets forward line rushes looked like this:
After a tough 3-2 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild to open the four-game road trip, Maurice said today's skate focused on a few themes.
One of those was zone time, especially after being outshot 16-4 in the third period and 44-21 overall on Saturday.
"You look at the shot totals, but certainly the zone time which is important to us, hasn't been there for us," said Maurice. "Video was based on that, getting it back on track, kind of an overview of our bigger picture view of our game. Not so much the microcosm of last night."
Copp is a big part of the zone time the Jets created prior to his injury.
At five-on-five, his shot attempt percentage is 53.07, one of the best on the team. He felt today's skate was important for him to get back up to speed.
He'd love to pick up right where he left off less than three weeks ago.
"The way I was playing in particular and the way our line was playing, we thought we were getting a lot of O-zone time and getting a lot of chances and producing to a good extent," said Copp. "I felt good heading into today based on the bumps and stuff yesterday, then felt good again today."
His potential return could come at a good time as the Jets try to avenge the 6-2 loss they suffered at the hands of the Canadiens back at Bell MTS Place on December 23.
The Canadiens are coming off an overtime loss of their own to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Overall, Montreal is 0-4-1 in their last five.
"We got in early enough to catch the third period (against Pittsburgh)," said Maurice. "They're hard and right. They play a fast game. Their positioning is very strong. I think they're playing that playoff game. That intensity they have in their game, we'll have to match that."