FARMERS BRANCH, Texas – Onward.
After a disappointing 5-3 loss last night to the Minnesota Wild, the Winnipeg Jets were back on the ice today at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter, preparing for tomorrow’s date with the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars.
The skate lasted for approximately 45 minutes in what can only be described as one of the quickest, most intense practices of the season.
“We wanted to work on getting that pace back in our game – getting quicker and making sure we’re staying on pucks,” Drew Stafford said. “In practice here, we wanted to work on those good habits, and those are the things we needed to get better at because it’s held us back these past few
“We don’t have a lot of time to dwell on anything. We’ve got to get ready to go for a big one tomorrow night.”
0-2-1 in their past three games, the Jets are coming in facing a Stars team that rattled off three straight victories prior to Tuesday’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Stars (12-4-0) sit atop the division standings, but have only played five of their 16 games against Western Conference opponents.
“Even in the games they lose, they’re still banging in a bunch of crossbars, getting a lot of great [scoring] chances,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “They’re as offensively gifted a team as there is in the National Hockey League. … They’re just a hell of a team, top to bottom.”
In preparation for tomorrow’s matchup Maurice unveiled a change up front, promoting Chris Thorburn to the third line alongside Stafford and Adam Lowry, with Alexander Burmistrov
assuming the vacant spot on the fourth.
The first and second lines remain intact.
“He’s a big body, he’s strong on the pucks down low, Stafford said of the addition of big No. 22. “He can get in on the forecheck and win battles, so any extra strength we can have a line down low will help us generate some more offence.
“There’s ebbs and flows in every season. There are stretches like this and things happen. If things aren’t going your way, you have to make sure your practice habits are strong, like they were today. We were lacking some speed in our game these last few games – we were lacking some quickness and aggressiveness, where we’re hounding pucks. That’s something that we’ve got to get back
in our game, starting at today’s practice and moving into tomorrow.”
On defence, Ben Chiarot was back in the regular rotation on a pairing with Tyler Myers.
“We felt we needed a bit more speed with Lowry and Stafford,” Maurice said. “We know in the stretch of hockey that we’re in that we’re going to need all four lines off the bench, so I'm trying to balance them a little bit."
For Chiarot – by his own admission – it’s been a difficult year trying to get back to the level of play and the “standard” he holds himself to.
A lot of it, he says, has to do with confidence.
“Coming in last year, it didn’t feel like it was that big of an adjustment. Then you come into the regular season [this year], your confidence is flying high, then one thing goes wrong and it just builds, and builds and builds. Next thing you know you’re not seeing anything on the ice and
the simple things become a lot harder.”
This being Chiarot’s first full year in the National Hockey League, Maurice insists that he hasn’t stood out in a particularly bad way, but he’d like to see more.
“Part of what is expectations … and our expectations of him, at times, have raised,” he said. “He’s got to get back to his game. He’s just been average, and we’re asking more from our young players to be better than that.”
LATE HITS: Blake Wheeler left practice about 30 minutes in and did not return. “He’s fine,” Maurice said when asked about the winger’s status.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com