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Practice Day Notebook: Ehlers producing, Letestu out long-term

Little leaves practice early, Laine out for Friday's game against San Jose

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

SAN JOSE - Thursday's practice in San Jose opened with promise, as Patrik Laine - who missed Tuesday's 7-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks due to injury - participated in drills wearing a regular jersey.

But when the Finnish sniper, usually one to stay on the ice and do skill work, left the ice immediately following the formal part of the skate, the bad news came shortly after.

"He's not going tomorrow," said head coach Paul Maurice. "We'll see where he's at. He didn't feel like he could play tomorrow."

While Laine did make it through the entire practice, his teammate Bryan Little did not.

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

Little, who has goals in back to back outings, left practice about 15 minutes into the session.

Maurice said the forward "couldn't loosen up" and will be re-evaluated on Friday morning before the Winnipeg Jets take on the San Jose Sharks.

"It's a challenge when you have key pieces coming in and out of your line-up," said Maurice. "Whether it's Bryan in the first 10 (games), or Patty. It's a challenge, but I liked our offence last game. We were able to generate some things, but it's a challenge for sure."


Nikolaj Ehlers was a big part of that offence. The Danish forward scored twice to give him a team-leading six goals and added an assist in the loss to the Ducks.

Ehlers now has 13 points, tied for the team lead with Mark Scheifele.

"If he can play the game he's playing away from the puck, he has truly developed into a full time pro," said Maurice. "He's getting guys on his back, controlling pucks, he's battling, he's stripped a guy, from his knees won a battle behind the goal and we got a great chance off it. 

"I think that's why it's getting off his stick the way it's getting off, why he's shooting the puck, why he's creating the offence. All the other parts of his game are full out pro."

With Laine not available for the game against the Sharks, a change was made to Winnipeg's power play unit.

Ehlers was located in the right circle, Scheifele in the left circle, Kyle Connor in the high slot, Blake Wheeler net front, and Josh Morrissey at the point.

"(We have) two right-handed shots that can run a power play from that side," Maurice said. "It gives you a different look. With Bryan down and Patty down, we have to make some adjustments and move some people around."


Forward Mark Letestu will be out long-term after tests revealed he has myocarditis, a virus that attacks the heart.

It's an inflammation of the heart muscle and can affect the heart's electrical system, reducing its ability to pump and can cause rapid or abnormal heart rhythms.

"He's shut down for six months," said Maurice. "Here's the positive, because it can be a really tricky situation, he's going to be fine. They have full faith that he's going to get back to complete health. He's shut down with the exception of very light exercise for a period of six months."


Connor Hellebuyck will be between the pipes when the Jets face off with the Sharks at SAP Center on Friday. Laurent Brossoit will start Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Hellebuyck was pulled after allowing five goals on 19 shots against the Ducks.

"We got into a game where they didn't really generate a lot of offence on us. They didn't have a lot of zone time on us. It just wasn't going for Helly around the net," said Maurice. "It gave LB a chance to get half a hockey game under his belt, because we are splitting the next two."

As for the Sharks, they've just returned from a five-game road trip that saw them go 1-3-1. They were outscored 14-4 in three losses to close the trip.

"That's a pretty veteran team that's in a tough grinder," said Maurice. "They're going to be wired. They'll be grumpy and so will we."

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