WINNIPEG - This small break in the schedule came at a great time for Josh Morrissey.
The defenceman left Saturday's 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets with a lower-body injury, but was a full participant in the team's Skills Competition on Monday night and was also skating in practice today.
"It was nice to have some days off to heal up. We don't usually have that amount of time off between games," said Morrissey. "It was one of those things. It hit me in an awkward spot and swelled up a little bit on me. We were able to get a lot of treatment over the last few days."
However, the prognosis wasn't as good for Nathan Beaulieu, who also left Saturday's game with an upper-body injury.
"Longer than day-to-day. We won't bring him on the trip," Maurice said. "It's going to be at least seven to 10 days before we look at putting him back on the ice."
Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice
That left the Jets with seven defencemen for Tuesday's 40-minute skate. So while the forward lines stayed the same, the defensive pairs changed as the odd number of skaters worked through the drills.
Maurice wouldn't confirm who would be in the line-up when the Winnipeg Jets open a three-game road trip Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks. However, Anthony Bitetto said he's ready if his name is called.
"You never want to see someone go down," Bitetto said. "In the business we're in that's kind of how things happen sometimes. When your number is called, you have to be ready."
Bitetto's last game was on November 5 against the New Jersey Devils, the same day that Beaulieu returned to the line-up after missing the first 15 games of the season.
Maurice said at the time that he didn't want Bitetto (or fellow blue liner Carl Dahlstrom) out of the line-up for too long, but the team went 5-2-1 from that date and all the defencemen remained healthy.
"You have to stay positive. It's a long season, things happen, you never know. You could go on a run that you play the rest of the season. You have no idea," said Bitetto. "You have to take the opportunities as best you can when they come and be positive. It's a good group we have and a good thing going. You don't want to be the guy in the room that's negative about it."
Video: PRACTICE | Anthony Bitetto
Now the focus shifts to the road trip, where the 14-9-1 Jets will look to continue their success away from Bell MTS Place.
The eight victories the Jets have on the road this season are tied with the Arizona Coyotes for the third most in the league. Part of that, in Maurice's mind, is how close the group has become this season.
"Look at how hard our team is playing right now. You can tell by being around the room that there is a lot of respect in there, but they're having fun, and our compete level is real high," said Maurice.
"I'm standing behind the bench and we've had some ugly stretches in games, they're all tight games, but the bench is right, they're playing for each other. I don't know if you're allowed to say it in the NHL, but it's fun. I know we're not 20 games over .500, I know San Jose - if it's anything like our last game - is going to be fun and all we can handle in there, but I'm looking forward to it."
Video: PRACTICE | Josh Morrissey
That last game against San Jose was on November 1, when goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made a career-high 51 saves in a 3-2 triumph over the Sharks.
Morrissey would prefer if this time around, the Jets didn't rely on their goaltender quite so much.
"He won us that game for sure," Morrissey said of Hellebuyck. "We're going to go in there, it's a tough building to play in, we know what to expect. They've won three in a row and are playing good hockey. It'll be a good test to start the road trip. We're going to have to be ready for that same kind of environment that we've been facing - Nashville, Dallas, tough buildings to play in."
Maurice wasn't overly thrilled with his group that night, but one thing he did notice was the play of the team's low forward in the defensive zone that night.
"Our two defencemen and our low forward did a marvelous job boxing out and they had to, because the puck was there the entire last two periods," Maurice said. "We'll have their attention. We certainly have a tremendous amount of respect for that team. Like Dallas, we're hitting a bunch of these teams that are on really strong runs."
With one power play goal in 10 opportunities in the last five games, it looks like the Jets might be tweaking their personnel on the man advantage.
Near the end of practice, the Jets went back to a familiar look - Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler, and Neal Pionk.
At the other end of the ice, Morrissey, Andrew Copp, Mathieu Perreault, Jack Roslovic, and Nikolaj Ehlers went to work.
"There's a lot of skilled players out there and different options to look at. It's all about execution and goals going in at the end of the day," Morrissey said. "We're going to look at some things like that. The coaches have put some things together for us. When you have a bunch of skilled players, it's all about finding the right fit and it's going to start to go in."