WINNIPEG - The question of whether or not Patrik Laine was singled out and "benched" during Tuesday's loss to the Minnesota Wild was a hot topic following today's practice, and Head Coach Paul Maurice went into great detail about the deployment of the young forward.
Laine started the game with Bryan Little and Nikolaj Ehlers, but was moved onto the fourth line after he and his linemates were on the ice for two Minnesota goals, including one that was the result of a Laine giveaway near the end of a long shift.
"He had a rougher night. That's going to happen," said Maurice, who spoke to the media for more than 15 minutes on this very subject.
"Still love him. Going to play him again."
Laine tried to make a pass up the middle, but it was picked in the neutral zone, allowing Jason Pominville to skate down the right side and slap one past Ondrej Pavelec.
"I didn't take Patty Laine and sit him in front of the video. We talked about it," Maurice said. "We talked about the play that he put in the middle, but we can also pull up a video of everyone else doing a version of that. … But I also don't want him losing that. I don't want him dumping every puck. As a matter of fact, I would rather he doesn't do it at all except at the right times to do it. So we show him some video, but more often than not, we talk about it.
"I love the guy and I also know what he's going to mean to this franchise. So if I shaved three minutes off his game I apologize to Manitoba. And I'll give you a little insight: He's playing with Little and Ehlers next game."
In all, Laine played a season-low 12:58, fourth lowest among all forwards (Andrew Copp, Drew Stafford and Nic Petan played less), although the rookie did see plenty of ice late in the third when the Jets trailed by a goal.
Laine finished the night with one shot and a -3 rating, and while he certainly isn't proud of that stat line, he promises to better on Friday when the Jets host the Chicago Blackhawks.
Video: PRACTICE | Patrik Laine
"It was a tough game," he said. "I wasn't playing my best. So it was a good decision from him. I've sat on the bench before. It's not new to me. That kind of stuff happens.
"It wasn't maybe the biggest mistake in the world, just a bad pass and the opponent scored. You just have to learn from your mistakes and hope you won't do them again."
At the end of the day, that's what the 'demotion' was all about. Laine, 18, is learning the NHL game on the fly and will see his fair share of hard lessons, like all players that enter the league at a young age and grow along with it.
Take Mark Scheifele, for example. Or Adam Lowry. Or Jacob Trouba. Or any number of the young players the Jets have put in prominent roles over the past few years.
They've played and they've made mistakes, but they've been put right back on the ice because that's how talented players learn.
Sometimes, you just have to take a different approach.
"That's how I've handled it," Maurice said. (Young players) play big minutes here. I don't know if Patty's No. 1 [in ice time] among rookies, but if not he's off by seconds. … I see a whole different level of development in Patty. There's going to be a time where he doesn't score a bunch of goals and everyone's going to be in a panic about where his game's at. But from the start of the year to where he is now, he's miles better (as a) player.
"It goes 'draft,' 'develop,' 'dominate,' hopefully, at some point, but you're not missing that middle part, so I play him."
Maurice added that, if anything, he's coddled the young players this year, as he doesn't want them to lose confidence.
"I've told them the next step in their careers is that they come to the bench and I scream at them for the turnover and you go back out there and try to make the right play. I'm not screaming at them right now because I don't want them losing confidence. I want them to go out, I want them to get better and try to make a better play. That's true of Mark Scheifele, too, but I yell at Mark - an awful lot. But I didn't his first year, didn't really his second year, and then I got into him hard at the end of last year because he could handle it, and was all over him the first two months this year. That's the development. They get a bit of a free pass because I'm trying to make them better. I want them fired up for the next game.
To watch Maurice's full press conference, click the play button below.
Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice
Ben Chiarot (upper body) was a full participant in practice and could be an option for Friday.
Marko Dano returned to practice for the first time in a yellow, non-contact jersey after suffering a lower-body injury on Dec. 29. He is still a few days away.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com