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Stafford "available", may return to line-up vs Wild

Jets hold full practice for the first time in a month

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 / WinnipegJets.com

PRACTICE | Drew Stafford

PRACTICE | Drew Stafford

Drew Stafford said he feels 100 percent and could be back in the lineup tomorrow against the Wild

  • 02:31 •

Slowly but surely, the injured Winnipeg Jets are inching closer to a return.

With a total of 92 man games lost to injury before the end of November, the team had some good news during practice today, the team's first full team skate since Oct. 24.

Drew Stafford was a regular participant in line rushes, and not only was Bryan Little on the ice in a non-contact jersey, Kyle Connor also participated, wearing the same orange practice sweater as Little.

"Sitting out isn't fun for anybody," said Stafford, who has been out since Oct. 25 with an upper body injury. "But there are other things that you have to make sure you're taking care of yourself so that if you do come back you're at 100 percent.

"I've just been preparing every day to make sure I'm ready."

In the eyes of head coach Paul Maurice, the veteran winger only has one hurdle left to clear before getting back in the line-up.

"He needed to get through a full practice and feel good," Maurice said following the one-hour session at Xcel Energy Center today. "As of now he did, but we'll wait until tomorrow morning to make sure that continued."

Stafford, 31, scored 21 goals last season, the fourth time he's reached the 20-goal mark in his career. Six of those goals last season came on the power play, something the Jets worked on for 20 minutes today.

"You look at how important special teams are in games. Last year our PP and penalty kill could have been a lot better, and they cost us a lot of games," said Stafford. "It's something that when you don't have time to practice it, it's kind of just on the fly during games. To get the extra time to work on it in practice is huge."

Just as huge as the extra work Tuesday's practice provided, was the rest Monday's day off was for the Jets.

"The mood is lighter in practice and they've got some energy," Maurice said. "I thought we had that energy in the Philadelphia game, I just think it caught up to us."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

Last Thursday's game was the start of the five-game road trip, and resulted in a 5-2 loss to the Flyers. From there, the Jets lost games on back-to-back nights in Boston and Carolina.

Though the day off doesn't erase those losses from the record, Maurice believes it can act as a reset button for the road trip, as the Jets focus on the two Central Division opponents left on the trip: Minnesota and Nashville.

"We've played well up until the last two games," Maurice said, adding the team "emptied the tank" against Carolina.

"We need the mental break from those two, and now we get back to teams that we play a lot, and we understand the style of game that's going to happen, and try to get back on that winning track."

LATE HITS: Maurice gave updates on the rest of the players on the mend, beginning with Kyle Connor, who has been on injured reserve since Nov. 14.

"His next practice, he'll get some bumping in," Maurice said. "He needs to get through a non-contact full skate. So he's still a couple days before we can clear him."

He added that Little is inching closer to day-to-day status, but Maurice doesn't expect the 29-year-old to play on the road trip.

Mathieu Perreault and Tyler Myers are doing some "very light" skating, but Maurice believes it will be some time before they return.

"There's a range on all these injuries," Maurice said. "Each one is different in terms of how fast they can come back from that injury."

Video: PRACTICE | Mark Scheifele

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