TAMPA, Florida – Today, it was about getting that pace back.
On the heels of a game that the Winnipeg Jets “just weren’t quick enough,” Head Coach Paul Maurice guided the troops through an intense, 45-minute practice at Amalie Arena, with a ‘conditioning skate’ at the very end.
Up and down, back and forth – full tilt, all the way.
“That was a hard practice but it wasn't over-the-top hard,” Maurice said.
“I left them with a chance to compete hard tomorrow.”
Suffering just their first loss in five road games Tuesday in Carolina, the Jets will need to rebound with a better effort tomorrow against one of the premiere snipers in the game. Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning have lost four of their last five and are on the outside looking in when it comes to the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but they remain a formidable foe, and the Jets will have to be at their best to get back in the win column following a disappointing result the other night.
“It was what Paul thought was best for us,” Andrew Ladd said of the practice, “so I hope everyone gets the message. The message is that the way we’re playing isn’t enough. We’re not giving enough; we’re not playing hard enough. There’s another level that we need to get to.”
Added Maurice, who agreed that the post-all star pace picks up with the drive to the playoffs: “We have to continue to push to work at a high level and develop that consistency. It’s a hard thing to do and we’re going to do that. We’ve had a lot of nights where we work real hard and compete real well… We just have a tough time stringing those nights together. We’re going to make sure that we understand that we’re not going to take it easy and let it go.
“Everybody breaks a sweat in the NHL, but there’s another level that this gets to.”
With 26 games left, the Jets are nine points out of a playoff spot. They know time is running out and that they need to go on a run, right now.
“It’s up to every guy in that room, individually, to prepare, mentally and physically, for tomorrow night and be ready to play,” Ladd said. “What makes you a consistent team is having that level of compete night in and night out. It’s something that we need to drive home here.”
The Jets have two games left on this trip – tomorrow against the Lightning, and Saturday against Jaromir Jagr and the Florida Panthers. The schedule then ramps up, with the Jets playing the rest of their schedule in just 47 days.
That’s one game every 1.9 days for the next month-and-a-half.
No one said it was supposed to be easy.
“The teams that even feel they have a high offensive team know that when they get to these kind of playoff games, they’re all going to be grinders,” Maurice said. “It’s hard to get pucks to the net and hard to generate offence. That’s what the rest of the season is going to look like. It’s going to be very difficult. Every once in a while you’ll get into a game and put up three or four (goals), but you don’t see that very often.”
Puck drop tomorrow night is at 6:30pm CT.
LATE HITS: Adam Lowry and Dustin Byfuglien did not practice today. Byfuglien took a skate in the “nether region,” according to Maurice, in last night’s game. Lowry’s ailment was not disclosed. Both are expected to play tomorrow night.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com