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Jets prepare for battle with the Blues

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

ST. LOUIS, Missouri – After enjoying a well-deserved off day following a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators, the Winnipeg Jets were back on the ice for practice today at the St. Louis Ice Zone, preparing for tomorrow’s clash with yet another division rival.

Andrew Ladd (maintenance) and Bryan Little (undisclosed) did not skate.

Little is “where he’s supposed to be,” according to Head Coach Paul Maurice, but will not play tomorrow night against the Blues.

“When he feels good he’ll be out there.”

The Jets practiced for about 45 minutes in suburban St. Louis, and following the skate, Maurice was incredibly pleased with his team’s effort.

“The pace was really good,” he said. “When you practice in low-ceiling buildings, you always feel like you’re going faster than you are. I love practicing at the (MTS) IcePlex. The ice is outstanding – it’s a little bit chilly, I’m not going to lie about that – but when you get out there in these smaller rinks, psychologically that can be a good thing. One of the new guys was saying, ‘Man, we’re flying out here today!’”

Indeed they were.

On the heels of one of their most impressive performances of the season, the Jets are feeling good as they head into the second of a four-game road trip.

“It’s never as good and never as bad when you look back and watch (games) on video,” Maurice said, “but it (the win over Nashville) was even better than I thought. I had a pretty high opinion of that game, anyway, but our compete level right from the start was fantastic. We were playing a good team and our execution was pretty good, too. … We were wound up for that game. That might have been as good a game as we’ve played all year. I’m not talking about the result, but the individual strides – each guy – the quality of the battle…

“There was a lot of good in our game.”

The Jets outshot the Predators 26-21 and were the dominant team for much of the evening. As a result, the Jets (33-21-12) sit second in the Western Conference Wild Card, one point back of the Minnesota Wild. The defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings occupy third – the first non-playoff seeding – trailing the Jets by three with one game in hand.

Both the Jets and the Blues (6-1 over the Toronto Maple Leafs) are coming off wins and have each had two days rest between games.

“They’re like us. They’re a tough team to play against,” Jets defenceman Adam Pardy said. “They’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast and their power-play is pretty deadly.

“It’s always a tough game coming in here and playing this team, but I think we match up well. If we play them straight up and physical, we’ll be good. ... We did all the things we wanted to do in that Nashville game. We played hard, we got in on the forecheck and our intensity was up. It was a great start for us and we’re looking forward to bringing that into tomorrow’s game.

“These games are the best to play. This is why you put in all the hard work, to get to play in these types of games.”

ANOTHER STEP FORWARD

Matt Halischuk is inching closer to a return.

The 26-year-old has missed the past 16 games with a lower-body injury, but has been back skating for a week or so. Today he participated in the full team practice almost ready to return after being placed on IR way back on Jan. 30.

“It’s exciting. Getting back out with the guys is great,” Halischuk said. “The pace grows as the year goes on, and especially now, in this run so close to the playoffs. Every game you miss, you lose that pace a little bit. I’m trying to push in practice and make sure I’m as quick as I can.”

According to Maurice, Halischuk is “closer” and could be ready to return sooner rather than later.

“Now we’ve got to lean on him a little bit. We’ve got to get through a couple (more) of practices like that and tell (Head Athletic Therapist) Robbie (Milette) that he feels good.”

— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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