WINNIPEG - If there was ever any doubt about their relationship after the past week, Bryan Little and Patrik Laine put an end to that a few days ago.
Of course, it was then that some of Laine's comments were published in a Finnish newspaper about playing with the team's best players.
While Blake Wheeler and head coach Paul Maurice have said the understood Laine's comments as a player wanting to contribute more to his team already this week, Little echoed those sentiments on Thursday.
In fact, he and Laine spoke over the phone shortly after the interview was published.
"He texted me and asked me to call him. So I called him up and we chatted for a few minutes," Little said. "He was saying 'sorry' and apologizing for just the way it was interpreted, which I kind of understood before I even talked to him. I know Patty well enough that he's not someone that's going to purposely say negative things, especially about his teammates.
"When you're young you want to score more goals, get more points, play with the best, and get more ice time. He was just voicing that. He wants to be one of our go-to guys."
Video: TRAINING CAMP | Bryan Little
Laine (along with Kyle Connor) remain absent from Jets training camp as their contract negotiations continue. But after the quick chat about the interview, he and Little moved on to catching up - and made sure not to talk contract.
"I said 'I'm not even going to ask you about how it's going. I just hope I see you soon,'" Little said. "The fact he texted me says and confirmed what kind of guy he is. He's a great guy. The short conversation we had was nice. It was nice to talk to him, nice to hear from him and see how he's doing and talk about stuff other than what the media is saying."
Maurice was happy to hear the conversation took place between the two.
"Something like that comes out, whether its direct or in an indirect way seems to disparage a teammate, you do the right thing and pick up the phone," Maurice said. "Those are the only two guys that have to answer to each other. They handle that.
"I'm glad it happened, because it should have happened and it's the right thing to do. Everyone has a good giggle about it and we move on."
Little was one of a few Jets that didn't skate on Thursday - Blake Wheeler also stayed off the ice and Sami Niku left five minutes in due to a sore groin.
The 31-year-old Little has played in one preseason game so far (the 2-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Sept. 16), winning 62 per cent of his face-offs in 14:43 of ice time.
He does admit to feeling the rust after the off season though.
"I wasn't really happy with my game in Edmonton. It didn't feel great. I felt tired. It wasn't my best game," said Little. "You don't always want to go into a game thinking that, but I kind of figured it would look that way.
"Just the fact it was both teams' first preseason games. We've practiced systems but it's not second nature for everyone. Guys are kind of out of position sometimes and it's tough to read out there. But that's why you play these preseason games. Hopefully next game is better than that."
Video: TRAINING CAMP | Paul Maurice
His focus during the off season wasn't on any specific individual goals. The Jets have made it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past two seasons - and Little wants another crack at it this season.
"That's my big motivation now. For me, it's improving my game and contributing more, which is going to help the team more," Little said.
"That's how I approach the summer. How can I work hard today to better myself so I can help the team? That was my motivation."
That's the exact attitude Maurice sees from Little on a nightly basis. He gets a front row seat to it every night from the bench.
"We've got these three young brilliant players and he's been afforded the opportunity to play with two of them over the last two years. There is a challenge that comes with that…. Bryan has been tasked with that," Maurice said.
"I see it on the ice the nights that he has to be first on the forecheck and first on the back check and that's pretty much what he does all night. The other kids are gifted and they do a lot of really good things and they score goals and we cheer them. Bryan comes back to the bench, puts his lungs back in his body, goes back out and does it again.
"What I appreciate is your players teach you things too. There's a guy that's teaching all of us how to be a great pro."