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Laine inches closer to return

18-year-old was a full participant in Sunday's practice

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 /

PRACTICE | Patrik Laine

PRACTICE | Patrik Laine

Patrik Laine talks about participating in a full-contact practice, and when he hopes to return to the lineup

  • 02:04 •

WINNIPEG - The wait continues, but so too does the progress.

Patrik Laine shed the yellow non-contact jersey for Sunday's team practice at MTS Centre, and in doing so, took another step toward returning to game action.

But Paul Maurice said Laine's return will not come on Monday night when the Winnipeg Jets take on the Anaheim Ducks.

"We talked this morning that he wasn't going tomorrow," said Maurice. "Even a guy that had no injury, I wouldn't have him do today's practice and go in to back-to-back."

The 18-year-old rookie, who will miss his eighth game due to the concussion sustained against Buffalo on Jan. 7, agrees with the head coach, but has liked the progress he's seen the last few days.

"Always when I tried to get my heart rate up, it hurt my head," Laine said about the early days of recovery. "So the past few days I felt like I could be back soon… I have to work hard so I can get skating back and keep up the pace on the ice. Then I'll think about when I'm going to be back."

Laine worked on getting that pace up today. He was one of a few players that stayed on the ice after today's 30-minute practice to build his endurance. Maurice described the practice as "a good old-fashioned tug."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

"It's a hard practice for anybody. Most importantly we look at tomorrow and how he feels off that," added Maurice. "So he had a full practice yesterday, a small group, but no restrictions. Then the kind of practice that nobody enjoys today. We'll just keep going from there."

Maurice called Tuesday night's home stand finale against San Jose a "possibility" for Laine, but cautioned that the unpredictability of concussion recovery makes it difficult to circle a particular day for a return.

"As you know with this, we're waiting for the next day to make sure," said Maurice. "If he feels like he comes into the rink tomorrow and feels real strong, then we'll start thinking about the next night."

Drew Stafford, who left Saturday's 5-3 win over St. Louis with a lower body injury, also won't be in the line-up tomorrow night. Maurice said the injury "possibly" won't be as significant as the team first feared, and listed the veteran forward as day-to-day. Brandon Tanev will draw into the line-up against Anaheim.

Video: SIGHTS & SOUNDS | Laine practices

With Stafford out, Andrew Copp got a look on the line with Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers in the third period of yesterday's win. But Maurice hinted that Nic Petan may also get a look in that spot.

"With Petan at centre, they have a certain chemistry there that I've liked an awful lot," Maurice said of the Petan, Copp, and Chris Thorburn trio. "That changes now with Andrew not being there. But Andrew can go into centre. Then it's a different looking line as well. So we're going to move them back and forth.

"If we get out of the gate and we like what we're doing tomorrow night then we'll just leave it. But I'm going to try and get Nic up on the wing and get Andrew back to the middle just so we have a little different looks against different opposition. We have a great big team coming in here tomorrow with a lot of size in their bottom six, so we may have to make adjustments from there."

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