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Jets hold optional skate ahead of three-game western Canadian road trip

Jets are 12-6-0 against the Pacific Division this season

by Jamie Thomas @JamieThomasTV / Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG - The majority of the Winnipeg Jets took a day off from the practice rink as it was an optional skate for the team ahead of their three-game western Canadian road trip which starts Wednesday in Edmonton.

After a 4-2 win over Arizona and jumping back into a playoff spot, the Jets should feel good about themselves especially knowing this is as healthy as they've been all year, right? Blake Wheeler put the brakes on that line of questioning.

"You have to be careful because you don't want to take a step back and relax a little bit because now you got some guys that can do things in your lineup," said Wheeler.

"I think when you have people coming in and out of the lineup each guy has to step up their game a little bit and sometimes you get more out of people then when you are completely healthy. You have to be careful not to just relax and rely on having more healthy bodies. If we can bring that sense of urgency that we've played with a long time now with a healthy lineup, it's certainly going to give us an edge."

Video: PRACTICE | Scheifele and Wheeler

Adam Lowry made a triumphant return from injury on Monday just like Mathieu Perreault did last Friday. Lowry gives the Jets a couple of options now when it comes to matching up against the other team's best lines. Mark Scheifele's line usually does the heavy lifting in that department but with three consecutive road games, Paul Maurice can rely on Lowry, Andrew Copp and Jack Roslovic as well. From the second period on, Lowry's line faced off against the Nick Schmaltz trio who had scored twice in the first.

"They're going to score some goals, they're going to be around the blue paint and in the heavy areas," said Maurice.

"But they took a heavy line and kept them in their end of the ice and finished checks and battled on them and that's the real advantage. I didn't think they were necessarily in sync as I would expect after a guy's been off for two months."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

Copp and Lowry are as solid as it gets in their own end but the wild card is Roslovic. Young players have a tough time adjusting to having to deal with the pressure of being better in the d-zone and the 23-year-old is no different.

"He's made great strides to the point that we didn't run him back into the middle of the ice," said Maurice.

"Because we were comfortable with where he's at defensively but there's still lots of room (for improvement)."

Since the player break the Jets are 11-6-2 and have played some of their best hockey of the season over that time frame. Sitting in a playoff spot with 12 games remaining and with Dallas sliding, there might even be a shot at third place in the Central. Fans might see that but again the Jets as a group are just looking at the next game.

"Whether we ultimately make the playoffs or not, the fact that our group has given us an opportunity we take a lot of pride in that," said Wheeler.

"Quite honestly, even without losing Buff and Bryan Little before the season we knew this was going to be a really tough challenge for us to have a chance to make the playoffs. You lose two of your best players during the season, we really shouldn't be where we are at. There's a lot to be said being in this position and one of the reasons that we are here is we take it day-by-day."

That next game is the final meeting of the regular season between the Jets and Oilers. Both teams have won on home ice with Edmonton beating Winnipeg 3-2 at the end of February.

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