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Practice Day Notebook: Power play work and Bitetto back on the ice

Jets close out five-game stretch at Bell MTS Place on Tuesday

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

WINNIPEG - One day after a shutout win over the Edmonton Oilers, the Winnipeg Jets were back on the ice for practice, continuing to work on a new wrinkle on the power play.

That wrinkle was introduced during the game against Edmonton and it involved putting Neal Pionk on the point of the power play unit with Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, and Patrik Laine.

For the majority of the season, that spot was taken by Josh Morrissey - who now works with the second unit that includes Nikolaj Ehlers, Mathieu Perreault, Jack Roslovic, and Bryan Little.

"The hands. It's just the hands," said head coach Paul Maurice, citing Pionk's right-hand shot (as opposed to Morrissey's left-hand shot) at the point changes how the opposing team plays against the Jets in that situation.

"The power play works off one side of the ice, it's Wheeler's side of the ice. When you have a one-time option up top, that's a different threat for that killer," said Maurice. "The strong side forward on that side of the ice has to change his route to take away that pass, or it's a one-timer. When you change that route, it opens up 55 in the slot. It's just that simple."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

Pionk played 5:31 of his 24:25 on the man advantage Sunday night. He said his main focus in that spot is to be a puck distributor - either to Laine on his left or Wheeler to his right. But when he decides to shoot, he knows that puck has to get to the net more often than not.

"It's something that was harped on by my dad from a young age," said Pionk. "He always said 'the forwards work so hard to get it up to the point, why would you get it blocked?' I got a couple blocked last night and I never like doing that. I take pride in trying to get my shots through."

Winnipeg went 0-for-4 on the power play against the Oilers, who have yet to allow a power play goal against on the road this season.

Still, the Jets fired 10 shots on goal during their time on the man advantage. Laine said the ability to get some practice time in on special teams will be beneficial now that the team's schedule lightens up a bit.

"I like to practice. Especially for our power play and PK, we still have to work on it," said Laine.

"It's good to have some reps on the off days and not skate during the morning before the game. That's good for us. We got things going today and hopefully we feel good tomorrow."

Video: PRACTICE | Patrik Laine


Both Laine and Connor scored in the shootout last night to seal the team's fifth win of the season.

Connor used a deke in tight on goaltender Mike Smith, while Laine elected to shoot from the slot - a bit further out than shooters tend to be in the shootout.

"I was thinking about shooting it since the ice wasn't too good. I don't have good enough hands to dangle in that kind of ice," Laine said with a grin.

"I was thinking about going glove. He was cheating to that side so there was literally half the net open on the blocker side. So I tried to shoot there and it went in."

The 21-year-old Finn has 12 points in 10 games this season and had nine total shot attempts against the Oilers. His off-season training changed a bit this season - he started skating earlier than prior summers - and so has his preference for getting a new stick for every power play.

"I always try to use a new stick for the game, so it's pretty much always brand new when the power play comes. So I don't have to change that often," Laine said, saying that rule also applied to the shootout.

"I went with the same stick. It seems to be working. Just have to go with that one."

Video: PRACTICE | Neal Pionk


Defenceman Anthony Bitetto was a full participant in practice on Monday.

The 29-year-old has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury.

Maurice said the fact Bitetto was a full participant is a good thing, but he'd wait to see how the defenceman came in tomorrow before giving a further update.

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