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Jets practice numerous power play personnel options ahead of playoffs

"It just gives a different look sometimes when things could get stagnant in a series."

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - Special teams were the focus of practice for the Winnipeg Jets on Monday, but trying to keep track of who was on what power play unit proved to be a challenge.

That was by design, according to head coach Paul Maurice, especially after playing a team nine times in the regular season.

"They have seen your primary look and they need to be able to make adjustments on that," said Maurice. "If you make an adjustment on your power play, you don't want the first time you talk about it being on the bench. You want to talk about it and have worked on it. So we're just covering off some places we will start and some places we would like to go."

That being said, there were some elements of consistency.

The staples on the top unit were Neal Pionk at the point, with Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, and Blake Wheeler.

Video: PRACTICE | Connor, Lowry 

Paul Stastny, who practiced in a regular jersey on Monday after missing Sunday's skate, took the majority of reps with that unit, but Mason Appleton took the final couple of rotations in the 35-minute practice.

"On our team, we've got two good units, which means we have a lot of good players, so if you kind of flip-flop different guys or if guys play different positions, we're comfortable in all those slots," said Stastny. "I think us as players it's not that big of a change. It just gives a different look sometimes when things could get stagnant in a series."

At the other end of the ice, Josh Morrissey, Mathieu Perreault, and Andrew Copp (in a non-contact jersey for the second straight practice) took every rep with the second unit. Nikolaj Ehlers, also in a non-contact jersey, participated in one rotation with that unit as well.

However the power play units are configured, the Jets know the man advantage will be a key component in their first round series against the Edmonton Oilers.

Winnipeg's power play ranked sixth - and was ranked as high as second - in the National Hockey League this season, but finished the campaign going 2-for-30 in the last 12 games.

"When you do get your opportunity, you just got to bear down and I think it's coming up as a unit, making sure we're strong in every play - face offs and all the little details and our breakout, supporting each other," said Kyle Connor. "Once we get into a setup, it's taking the best option and not kind of beating to death one option, kind of using all of our options. That's when we're at our best, when we're moving quick."   

Scheifele had one of those two power play goals the Jets have scored since April 17. Ironically, it came against the Oilers penalty kill, which finished ninth in the NHL at 82.5 percent.

In the nine-game season series, the Jets power play scored six times in 24 opportunities against the Edmonton penalty kill.

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

On the flip side, the Oilers scored eight times on 27 power plays against the Jets, with six of those goals coming in three games.

Not surprisingly, Connor McDavid led Edmonton's power play charge against Winnipeg with six points. His teammates Tyson Barrie and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were right behind him with five points each.

"You don't want to get those guys feeling good touching the puck a lot," said Scheifele. "You've got to control your sticks, you've got to do the right thing, but it's going to come time where you're going to have to kill a penalty and you've got to do the right things. We have to prepare ourselves as a team for what to expect and kind of just go from there."

As crucial as defending against McDavid and company on the penalty kill will be important, the majority of the series will be played at five-on-five.

The six power play points McDavid earned against the Jets this season are just part of the total of 22 he accumulated in the season series.

Video: PRACTICE | Scheifele, Stastny

Maurice has a bit more control over match-ups on home ice. Whether it's the Adam Lowry line or Scheifele's line that he goes with, both players know they have their work cut out for them.

"Everyone kind of goes about their business and the prevention a little differently," said Lowry. "It's about using what you have and kind of using your abilities. For me, that's my size, that's my length and that's my physicality. So that's what I'm going to try and use and I think other guys - whether it's their feet, whether it's their positioning, whether it's their puck skills and things like that - I think everyone kind of is going to go about it a little differently."

In Scheifele's mind, McDavid's performance against the Jets this season can be a motivating factor.

"I definitely have thought about it over the last few days," said Scheifele. "you can think about the times where I was out against Connor and he got the best of me or I made a play on him and you try to think about ways you can take advantage of him when he's on the ice or what to do on the defensive side.

"You just have to use those things during the season as a learning curve and these next few days, obviously work on things, work on your game, work hard and try to prepare yourself as much as possible for that first game."

That first game is two days away.

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