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Pivotal test lies ahead for rested Jets

by Mitchell Clinton (@MClinton007) / Winnipeg Jets


WINNIPEG
-- The Winnipeg Jets know there is nothing they can do about the 3-9-0 Central Division record they’ve accumulated so far this season. Captain Andrew Ladd said after Sunday’s practice those games are in the past.

Now the focus is on tomorrow’s match up against the St. Louis Blues, and taking the first step toward gaining valuable points in the division.

"We know what to expect with them. We have a lot of experience with them. It’s going to be a tough physical game, a grinding game, another Central Division game,” said defenceman Jacob Trouba. “We have to get better in these type of games so we’re looking forward to it.”

For the second straight practice day, Trouba was paired with Dustin Byfuglien on the blue line. Coach Paul Maurice said there are a lot of benefits in pairing Trouba with Byfuglien.

“Minutes, puck movement, (and) playing against teams that have two very powerful offensive lines,” said Maurice. “Getting him in those minutes against those type of players, for not just development, he has to play against those guys to get to the next level.”

In putting that pair together, Maurice also had Ben Chiarot alongside veteran Mark Stuart. Maurice said the 24-year-old Chiarot can learn a lot from Stuart, who is set to play his 598th career NHL game tomorrow against St. Louis.

“Players have always learned far more from the guy they sit beside on the bench than they do from the guy standing behind the bench,” said Maurice. “Not just in the game, but the mentality of the game. Younger guys learn so much more from the veteran guys they sit with, and Mark has always had the level of intensity that we like in our back end.”

That intensity will be needed against the Blues. In the two games the two teams have played head-to-head this season, there have been 98 hits, with the Jets doling out the majority of the punishment (59).

“There’s a lot of emotion and they’re physical, fast, speed games. Those are fun to be a part of,” said forward Chris Thorburn. “We’re prepared. It’s a divisional game, and we all know our record within the division this year. So it’s going to be a big game and a big test for us.”

The Blues are the reason for two of the Jets divisional losses this season, and sit tied for second in the Central with Winnipeg’s most recent opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks.

“We feel in here we’re trending in the right direction, we just haven’t got the right results. So that’s on us,” said Thorburn. “The quicker we can fix that and put some wins together, the better for us down the stretch near the end of the season. That’s our mindset going into this one is it’s a new game. As long we’re playing the right way, give ourselves a chance to win, and hopefully end up on top.”

Despite the 2-0 loss to Chicago Friday night at United Center, Trouba felt the Jets had parts of the game they can build on. He hopes that with two days of practice to prepare for the Blues, the Jets can use their fresh legs to their advantage.

Both match ups with St. Louis have been within a goal in the last two minutes of regulation. The Blues won 4-2 at MTS Centre in October, and 3-2 at Scottrade Center last month. Trouba says playing in those types of games are a learning experience.

“Those are just games that we have to get more comfortable in. The one-goal games. Just find a way to get the extra goal,” Trouba said. “I don’t know if we’re not at our best in those, they’re just tougher games. They’re also important. We just have to find a way to buckle down and figure out a way to win some of those games.”

-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

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