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Maurice sees improvement in Jets play at five-on-five

'In the last five we're starting to generate the chances.' - Maurice

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

WINNIPEG - The long stretch between games for the Winnipeg Jets is almost over.

Thursday saw the team take to the ice for the fourth practice in five days since returning from Finland. The 40-minute session ended with a continuous game of 2-on-2 hockey - perhaps one of the many ways the team is trying to break up the monotony of extended practice time.

That stretch ends Friday night with the Colorado Avalanche in town to begin a four-game home stand.

"We know they have a lot of skill, especially on that top line, they can score goals at will," said Mark Scheifele. "We have to be prepared for that. We've played against them a lot over the years. We have to be ready to play a full 200-foot game."

Video: PRACTICE | Mark Scheifele

There were no changes to the line rushes in Thursday's practice:








Head coach Paul Maurice liked what he saw from Adam Lowry's line with Patrik Laine on the wing, even if he doesn't necessarily see it as a permanent thing. What he did see was how the playing style of Lowry and Brandon Tanev seemed to simplify Laine's game.

"In terms of getting his game into a certain directness, he plays off people well, he reads what the other guys are doing, there is a simplicity to his game," said Maurice. "I don't know if they were related to the goals he scored, but his game was right, how he moved the puck through the neutral zone, all those other things were good."

Video: PRACTICE | Adam Lowry

Three of Laine's four goals in Finland came on the man advantage (the other an empty-net goal), and the Jets power play overall has scored in a franchise-record 10 consecutive contests.

Maurice believes that success will translate to his team's five-on-five play soon. The Jets have 41 goals for through 14 games, putting them 22nd in the league. 

But the Jets' head coach doesn't read too much into that. He's focused more on how his team has looked in the last five games.

"All the analytics now are right for us except our shooting percentage. It's very low. Which we're not particularly worried about," said Maurice. "I don't think our offensive game was where it needed to be in that first seven or eight-game block. I think we built, but in the last five we're starting to generate the chances, the zone time that we need. We're on the right track."

Video: PRACTICE | Mathieu Perreault

One of the important lessons Maurice says his team needed to learn was how to win tight games, similar to the 2-1 win in Detroit when Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard made 38 saves.

Offensively at five-on-five, Maurice said it's all about speed first and finesse second.

"When Mark and Blake (Wheeler) are at their best, there is a lot of driving the play and backing it off after. For them, or any player, in the style of game we play, the thing we watch for most is we're backing off before we're driving the play," said Maurice.

"We're trying to fit pucks in, trying to make little plays before we've driven the pace, driven the speed, done the hard, heavy things that open up the gap that make all those plays happen."

The Jets are an even 50 per cent in shot attempt percentage at five-on-five this season, putting them 15th in the NHL in that department.

Both of Mathieu Perreault's goals this season have come at even strength, but even he feels he has another gear.

"The chances are there. I don't think we've been playing our best hockey. I personally don't think I have, a lot of the guys would say the same," said Perreault. "We have to keep pushing forward. We're working on things offensively so we can get more five-on-five, so hopefully we can get more in the next few games.

"Our power play has been really good. I just think we have more to give. Our game is going to get better as the season goes on."

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