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Jets prepare for a 'grind' against Minnesota

"I think it's going to be a good old turf war that Minnesota and Winnipeg play." -Maurice

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - It was an efficient Friday for the Winnipeg Jets, who skated for 30 minutes at Bell MTS Iceplex before heading off to Minnesota.

Last night's loss to the Chicago Blackhawks was still on the mind of the team as two valuable divisional points slipped away, but head coach Paul Maurice expects a different kind of test Saturday afternoon against the Wild (17-14-5).

He feels Chicago plays a bit more of an Eastern Conference style game, which fit with the fact the Jets had played four straight teams from the East prior to Thursday night.

"I'm more interested in the grind coming back. I think that's exactly what we're going to see tomorrow," said Maurice. "I think it's going to be a good old turf war that Minnesota and Winnipeg play."

Minnesota is coming off an 8-5 victory over the Arizona Coyotes and sit three points back of the Jets in the standings with the Jets holding a game in hand.

The setback against the Blackhawks, coupled with the 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, was the first time Winnipeg had lost back to back games since October.

They'll be looking to rectify that trend against the Wild, a team they've beaten once this year (also back in October).

To do that though, the Jets will have to improve on some aspects of their game from Thursday night.

"We had 14 odd-man rushes for, which would be the highest number of any game played in the National Hockey League this year. We only got six to the net though. That's a bit of a tell," Maurice said.

"We had a bunch of stuff that we didn't convert on. From the 10-minute mark of the first period to the end of the second the shots are 26-6. 

"I thought for us, when they scored that second one, all of what we had built in the second was kind of gone."

However, that creativity is also what makes Winnipeg's forward group special - and feared around the league.

Maurice said it's a delicate balance between promoting offensive creativity and getting pucks to the net.

"The idea that you would beat that out of them, that every puck had to get dumped and every puck had to get shot, I don't like that for this group," said Maurice. "I think we need to continually work on making the right decision. When it's there, make your play. 

"We want to be careful about stifling their creativity. I still think the meat and potatoes and the grind is where this game gets to by the time the playoffs roll around. We want to be mindful of that."

Tucker Poolman was the only Jet not on the ice on Friday, but Maurice said that was just for maintenance purposes and the defenceman - who scored his second goal of the season on Thursday night - is expected to play against the Wild.

The full line rushes looked like this, with Carl Dahlstrom skating in place of Poolman:

Connor-Scheifele-Laine

Ehlers-Wheeler-Roslovic

Bourque-Lowry-Appleton

Luoto-Shore-Shaw

Morrissey-Dahlstrom

Sbisa-Pionk

Beaulieu-Bitetto

Mason Appleton played 10:23 in the loss to Chicago at Bell MTS Place. It was his first NHL game since he broke a bone in his foot just prior to the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic Regina.

He thinks one word can describe the style of play needed against Minnesota.

"Grind is what it's going to be tomorrow afternoon. They play a pretty simple, heavy game. We're going to do the same," said Appleton. "We're going to be fast and strong and simple. We're excited for the test. It's obviously a huge game for the standings."

Maurice liked Appleton's game in his return to the line-up (after playing four games in the American Hockey League just prior to that NHL return).

He's unsure if Jansen Harkins - recalled from the Manitoba Moose along with Appleton two days ago - will make his NHL debut against the Wild.

"He's worked really hard to improve his game and get there. He'll get in when I think it fits the rest of the group. That's the idea. That would happen if I rolled (Nick) Shore up on the right wing," said Maurice.

"I want to see him. You have a month like that in the AHL and the NHL team is banged up, we should probably be looking at him."

Puck drop on Saturday is set for 1 pm CT.

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