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Jets ready for heavy dose of the Central

Winnipeg seeks improvement with 17 games in next 29 days

by Ryan Dittrick @ryandittrick /

PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

Head coach Paul Maurice talks about the busy week ahead and how critical these upcoming games against the Central Division are

  • 07:11 •

WINNIPEG - The 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic was everything it was built up to be, but after a busy few days before, during and after, the prevailing mood around the locker room Monday was that was good to "get back to normal."

"It will be nice to get back into a rhythm," captain Blake Wheeler said before the team flew to Dallas. "Last week was a little strange. We didn't play for a few days, and everything around the Heritage Classic was a little unique. Overall it was a great experience, but we're excited to get back at it tomorrow."

Video: PRACTICE | Blake Wheeler

The Jets will play 17 games in the next 29 days, with the majority of them being spent on the road. In fact, the next time the team will spend just two (or more) consecutive days at home in Winnipeg will not be until Dec. 12 and 13.

"I've never seen (a schedule) like this," Head Coach Paul Maurice said. "It's not the number of games, they're just things we've never dealt with before."

Following tomorrow's game in the Lone Star State, the Jets will return home to play the very same Stars Thursday at MTS Centre, before heading back out to play another Central Division rival - the Colorado Avalanche - the very next night, and more than 1,400 kilometres away.

Figuring that they would be better off getting a proper night's rest (instead of arriving back home at around 3:00am CT), the Jets will stay over in Denver and travel home Saturday, not practice, and then play the Buffalo Sabres in a matinee affair Sunday.

And that's the easy part.

At 2-3 on the year, and with a bunch of divisional games up on the horizon, the Jets know they will have to be at their best to come out on the right side of it.

"The first four (games) had a certain feel to them in terms of style," Maurice said. "There's always a bit more edge whenever you get into the Central. The Dallas games are always high end at both ends, so we've got to make the most of our chances in both games."

Last year, the Jets finished above .500 against the rest of the NHL, but their 11-16-2 mark within the division ultimately cost them a playoff spot. Improving on that is a point of emphasis this year, and it begins right now with their next three.

"They're big games," Wheeler said. "We didn't do a good enough job in our division last year and ultimately if you want to achieve your goals, you have to success in your division.

"It's no easy task - a lot of good teams - but it's going to be fun to see where we're at."

Video: PRACTICE | Tyler Myers

"Whenever you see a team in a short time span, you certainly want to take advantage of it because you won't see them much the rest of the year," added defenceman Tyler Myers.

"These division games give us a bit more motivation and we're going to try and get two points tomorrow night."

- Ryan Dittrick,

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