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Rest and recovery strategies becoming more important

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

SAN JOSE, California – Practice. Rest. Recovery. Repeat.

With one of the most difficult schedules in the NHL, the Winnipeg Jets have begun experimenting with different off-day routines, all aimed at helping the players be at their best when the puck
drops on game day – which, for the Jets right now, is every second night.

The Jets haven’t had more than two consecutive days off between games in more than six weeks, with the final quarter of the campaign played over a daunting, 40-day stretch. Before that, it was a lighter month in terms of games (just 12 in 29 days), but the Jets never played in the same city twice in a row, traveling more than 12,000 kilometres across three time zones for eight road
games and pair of overnight trips home.

With the NHL introducing a new, five-day ‘bye week’ for each team between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 next year, the 2016-17 is expected to be even busier.

“This is going to be even more true next year without even seeing the schedule: You’re going to have to get most of your work done in September, because your schedule just doesn’t allow you to put players on the ice and grind them to game readiness in different parts of the year,” Head Coach
Paul Maurice said following a skate at the Sharks training facility.

Following last night’s win in Anaheim, the team had a 45-minute bus ride to LAX before flying to Oakland, because aircraft cannot take off or land in San Jose past 11:30pm PT. After another
45 minutes bussing to the Teal City, the Jets finally made it to bed at around 1:45am.

With that in mind after a year of tough travel, the Jets are now putting a premium on rest, recovery and a balance of on and off-ice activities.

Today, for example, after ‘warming up’ in the 31-degree heat, the Jets hit the ice for about 25 minutes, with the bulk of it spent on special teams.

There was no down time, no knees taken at the white board. It was efficient. Fast. Intense.

“We just wanted to move the puck around and get the plane ride off,” Maurice said.

And with good reason; after all, the NHL season is a grind like no other. With little to no downtime over an eight- to 10-month stretch, the players’ physical and mental wellbeing is becoming more
of a focus here in Winnipeg.

“We’re trying a bunch of different things. We may look at having an off-ice day (Friday) in LA. There’s a mental piece to this, too. We haven’t had the season we wanted to have, but we want to make sure we’re still working every day and have a plan, and feel like we’re preparing the right way for games. … We’re not playing that well that we think we’ve got something figured out and we’re going to be perfect, but I think we’ve broken a fatigue barrier after a two-and-a-half week (stretch) where
we were really fighting it.”

The Jets, who have been hit hard by the injury bug, are 6-4-3 in their last 13 games – eight of which have been played against teams bound for the playoffs. They’ll face another one tomorrow night when the 45-29-6 Sharks play host in their penultimate game of the season.

“San Jose’s going to be a team that’s going to play closer to their game than we necessarily saw from Anaheim, or will see from LA,” Maurice said. “Both those teams rely on a certain physical component that’s tough to manufacture when you’ve locked up your spot in the playoffs and are just trying to get through this next week. San Jose skates so very well, and we think we’re going to see that tomorrow. That will again be another good test for our young players.”

The Jets are still without a three-game winning streak, but will have another chance – their 11th and final time this year – to make it happen.

Ondrej Pavelec will get the start in goal, while Michael Hutchinson – who is coming off a sparkling 27-save effort – is likely to get the call in the season finale Saturday in Los Angeles.

Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry and Chris Thorburn did not take part in today’s practice (maintenance), but are all expected to play.

– Ryan Dittrick,

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