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Laine takes next step in concussion recovery

18-year-old skated with the team in a non-contact jersey

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 /

WINNIPEG - Yellow may not be a colour associated with the Winnipeg Jets uniform, but it was a welcome addition during Friday's practice.

It was the colour worn by Patrik Laine, who joined the team for practice in a non-contact jersey for the first time since his concussion on Jan. 7.

Laine rotated in on line rushes, and put in some time as a penalty killer during the team's 45-minute skate, and said he's feeling better with each passing day.

"It was nice to go out there with the team, and getting back in shape. I'm feeling pretty good, " said Laine.

Video: SIGHTS & SOUNDS | Laine returns to practice

The 18-year-old said he didn't remember much about the hit, and struggled with headaches and fatigue for the first few days. He doesn't have a particular game circled on the calendar for when he hopes to return. His focus is just on getting healthy.

"It doesn't matter how long you're out of the games. I'm still young, and I have a lot of games ahead of me. I don't have to rush anything," he said. "It's easier to work out now, and be able to go out on the ice with the team. Hopefully I can get back soon."

Video: PREGAME | Patrik Laine

Head coach Paul Maurice said Laine will have tests done to determine if the rookie can move on to the next phase of concussion recovery.

"He's absolutely not getting back into a game until he's 100 percent and clear," said Maurice. "We make sure that the young players understand that this is not a character issue. This isn't about being tough. This isn't about grinding through it. We don't want him feeling any pressure."

The Jets have gone 2-3-1 without Laine in the line-up. Maurice said the team felt the initial shock of not having Laine and his team-leading 21 goals in the line-up early on.

"You miss the shooter, you miss the shot," said Maurice. "From an analytics and trending point of view, we were slow in our slot shots when he first went down. We've really picked that part of our game up offensively. We started in the bottom third for shot attempts from that area, and now we're into the middle third, and trending the right way."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

Winnipeg will try and continue trending in the right direction when they host the St. Louis Blues (23-18-5) Saturday afternoon. The Jets won the first meeting of the season back on Dec. 3 at Scottrade Center, 3-2 in overtime.

Since Jan. 1, the Blues have allowed the second most goals in the NHL (32 in nine games, tied with Tampa Bay). A 7-3 loss to Washington on Thursday night didn't help that stat, and also dropped St. Louis to 4-6-0 in their last 10.

"St. Louis is going through what we're going through," said Maurice. "I don't think the score was indicative of how they started that game or their play. They've had this in their game here in the last couple weeks, where they've had a tough one and they came back with a real good one. We'll expect their best (Saturday)."

Video: PRACTICE | Nikolaj Ehlers

But Nikolaj Ehlers knows the Jets need to focus on their own consistency, especially after snapping a four-game winless skid with Wednesday night's 6-3 win over Arizona.

"It's one of the things we've been struggling with the whole season is consistency. We have to be able to play hard, play physical, and play the way we played that last game," said Ehlers. "We have to be able to do that every night. We know we're not going to win every game from now on, but we have to be able to give ourselves that chance, and we have to be able to do that now."

Puck drop is 2 pm CT.

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