WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Jets skated at Bell MTS Iceplex for around 40 minutes Saturday afternoon and did so without the newly signed Patrik Laine.
The Finnish forward is expected to arrive Monday in Winnipeg and will practice for the first time the following day with his teammates. Safe to say, close friend Nikolaj Ehlers - like the rest of the Jets - are looking forward to Laine's return.
"Obviously it's exciting news. He's a guy who most of the guys in here have played with for the last three years and created a bond with," said Ehlers.
"You know he's a brother and he's coming home and we're excited for that."
Video: TRAINING CAMP | Nikolaj Ehlers
Even though Laine has been skating with SC Bern of the Swiss Elite League, he still has to go through the physical and medical testing that each member of the Jets go through at the start of training camp. But if everything checks out, it sounds like Laine will be in the lineup when Winnipeg opens the season Thursday in New York.
"That would be what I'm expecting to see. I mean if something changes I'll let you know," said Paul Maurice.
"I mean if he brings a groin injury or something to it (we'll see). Being that he has been training and he's been training with men, our expectation is that he'll be able to come in and move around the ice pretty good."
Video: TRAINING CAMP | Paul Maurice
From the outside you may assume that not having Laine, Kyle Connor (still unsigned) and Dustin Byfuglien in camp it would be a major distraction for the players. However, from mid-September until today the Jets have remained focused on who is on the ice and happy whenever the others arrive.
"I mean if they show up an hour before the first game we're excited to have them back," said Adam Lowry.
"If they miss a couple games we'll welcome them back when that time comes. We kind of go about our business with the group we have here and when we get the pieces added back, we will integrate them into the group and make sure they fit in."
Video: TRAINING CAMP | Adam Lowry
The Jets are still without Connor, Byfuglien and Sami Niku who continues to recover from a groin injury. Although, Niku did skate on Saturday on another sheet with goaltender Eric Comrie. Below is the lines and defence pairings we saw during practice today.
Ehlers Scheifele Wheeler
Perreault Little Appleton
Copp Lowry Roslovic
Bourque Letestu Gustafsson
Luoto Suess Lipon
TIGHT KNIT GROUP
Even though the Jets have spent the majority of training camp without Laine, Connor and Byfuglien, the team has become closer on and off the ice. This has all been done while welcoming in new faces like Mark Letestu, Neal Pionk and Gabriel Bourque.
"This is my fifth year now and I feel like every year you're getting closer and closer with the guys," said Ehlers.
"That's a good feeling and it helps you on the ice. The new guys have come in and done a nice job wanting to get to know the players and obviously we've tried to take them in as good as we can. Because they are part of the Winnipeg Jets now, it's an exciting group we have here and we're pretty excited and happy to get the season started."