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Jets focus on pace as preparation for Heritage Classic continues

"We simplified all our drills to get up and down the ice as simply as we possibly could." -Maurice

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

WINNIPEG - Paul Maurice felt there was an element of speed missing from the Winnipeg Jets game in Tuesday's loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

He made sure that pace was there in Wednesday's practice.

"We simplified all our drills to get up and down the ice as simply as we possibly could at the highest rate of speed," said Maurice. "All the things that excite the fans and keep the agents happy - seam passes that go bar down - those all happen after you've created an environment for it to happen.

"We had the one - Kyle Connor's goal - off a turnover by them. Other than that, we were hoping for that environment to create itself and it just wasn't going to happen the way LA was playing."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

The Jets worked on that for about 30 minutes at Bell MTS Iceplex, but there were only 11 forwards out there.

David Gustafsson was absent as he had a passport issue to sort out, while Adam Lowry was getting some tests done. However, Maurice still expects Lowry to be available for Saturday's Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic in Regina, SK.

With those two forwards not on the ice (and seven defencemen - including Tucker Poolman taking part), the forward line rushes looked like this:




Bourque, Appleton

While Poolman did take part in practice after missing the game against the Kings due to a minor injury, he and Anthony Bitetto (who returned to the line-up after missing two games with a lower-body injury) are still a bit banged up.

As a result of that - and injuries to a couple defenceman with the Manitoba Moose - the Jets claimed defenceman Luca Sbisa off waivers from Anaheim on Wednesday.

"We need some depth. We do. We need some guys who have some games in. He's got a great reputation as a real solid team guy," said Maurice.

"We have players that we like and they're working hard… but we don't want to be going out on the road the way we are thin."

Video: PRACTICE | Josh Morrissey

The 29-year-old Sbisa had one assist in nine games with the New York Islanders last season. Throughout his career, he's played 504 NHL games over the span of 11 seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights, and Islanders, accumulating 103 points.

In addition to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, where Sbisa played for the same Europe squad that had Maurice on its coaching staff, Sbisa has also represented Switzerland on the international stage a number of times. His resume includes the 2010 Olympics and the 2011 and 2012 IIHF World Hockey Championships.

The addition of Sbisa to the Jets blue line is important, especially with the team hitting the road for three games immediately after the Heritage Classic.

Those 500-plus games of NHL experience are also a big boost.

"He'll finish checks. He'll clear the front of the net, he's killed some penalties, he's got 32 playoff games in. He's got some time in the league and he's a pro," said Maurice.

"He spent an entire year in the NHL but not playing a lot of games. There is a reason for it. He's a real hard-working guy in practice and a real positive spirit. He's going to need some practice time with us. We run something a little bit different than the Island, but not much. There is a little bit of continuity between what they do defensively and what we do."

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