The Jets are coming off a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks and are three points back of a wild-card playoff spot, but with a 5-2-2 record in their last nine games, the team is happy with where their game is at - and rightfully so.
They're firing on all cylinders offensively, the defensive play has tightened up considerably, and the goaltending - led by 23-year-old Connor Hellebuyck - has been excellent following a barnburner in the first game back after the bye week.
At this time of year, against any opponent, you have to be able to win games 2-1, 3-2 and even the odd high-scoring affair, because that's exactly what playoff hockey is all about.
"Certain parts were really good, and I think a majority of that game we really liked," said captain Blake Wheeler following Tuesday's off-ice workout at MTS Iceplex. "There's a patience factor that goes into that. As you get further along in the season and into the playoffs, that's kind of what it looks like. There isn't a lot on either side, but you've got to get comfortable in those games."
Video: PRACTICE | Blake Wheeler
The Jets have 15 games left to make a push.
"We just have to win the next one," Wheeler said. "You can't look too far down the road and you can't scoreboard watch. You just have to take care of business on our end, and that means we have to go out and give a similar effort against Pittsburgh and find a way to get a win."
In a 1-1 game, Laine gave the puck away on a third-period power play that led to a shorthanded goal by San Jose forward Mikkel Boedker, leading the Sharks to a 3-2 victory.
The rookie had one of his tougher nights of the season, but both he and his head coach are confident he'll bounce back with one of his best Wednesday against the defending Cup champs.
"The guys they have over there killing penalties, they have so much skill, they can take those passes and go," Laine said, describing the play. "I didn't have that much time and I knew I had to do something. It wasn't a good decision, but sometimes that stuff happens.
"We had almost 13 minutes left in the third period so we had a lot of time to take that back, but we just couldn't score."
Video: PRACTICE | Patrik Laine
Laine, remember, is only 18 and played in his 59th career game last night, but showed incredible poise and maturity answering nearly five minutes worth of questions about this one play in a scrum with local and national media.
The result was unfortunate, but it was an experience Laine will use to better himself long term.
"I think I'm pretty good about forgetting those mistakes and trying to learn from them," he said.
"It's a play that gets made at certain times, and you find that when you play teams with better speed - and (the Sharks) are real aggressive - that your 'risk profile' has to change. That's a learned thing. It's all about experience, and we have to have Patty Laine and a number of those other players with that risk in their game because they're capable of making those plays. We don't want them dumping the puck in. But there's a time to make the safe play and live to fight another day. When you play San Jose and then you play Pittsburgh, because they skate the way they do, you have less time to make a decision and they're going to feed on what you give them."
Laine has already learned from it, saying he would not likely attempt the same play again given the opponent, the score, and the time left in the game.
"I think Patty has a real strong assessment of his game," Maurice said. "If there's a negative to it, he's probably too hard on himself. Some of that is that every time he touches the puck in the offensive zone, he thinks it can go in, and it might. If he misses a shot, he's an angry man. … I'll tell you what: There are veteran players that can give you a really unusual report on how they played. But having a guy at any age that understand his game and where he's at…
"It wasn't his best game and I don't think the line as a whole was very good last night. Remember, you don't play this game by yourself. But I'm looking forward to seeing him play tomorrow because every time he's had an off night, he's bounced back and played very well."
Things aren't getting any easier for the Jets after dropping Monday's contest to the 2016 Cup finalists. Sidney Crosby and the team that beat the Sharks in the dramatic championship series, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are next up on the docket.
The Penguins have won the only other meeting between these two teams this year, 4-3 in overtime, three weeks ago in the Steel City.
That game was Winnipeg's best of the season, but 44 saves from Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made all the difference.
Video: PRACTICE | Connor Hellebuyck
The Penguins currently sit third in the Metro Division with a 40-16-8 record (88 points) and haven't played since Sunday after posting back-to-back wins over the Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Still, despite the added firepower, Hellebuyck doesn't view this game any differently.
"I know they have some goal scorers over there, but I made it here because I'm stopping those guys," Hellebuyck said. "The way we've been playing, I know we're going to play the side way and take care of the defensive side. When we're playing that way, it makes my life pretty easy."
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com