WINNIPEG – In an otherwise quiet MTS Centre Saturday, a booming voice echoed about.
With the Winnipeg Jets back at the office following a 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers the night before, Head Coach Paul Maurice tactfully delivered the instructions, going about practice
the only way he knows how – with purpose.
It’s in everyone’s competitive nature to win, regardless of the time of year, but with more than a handful of candidates currently auditioning for jobs, there’s no sense panicking when the first
three throwaways don’t go your way.
Here on (an unseasonably warm) Sept. 26, the focus is more appropriately on education, especially when it comes to the team’s young forwards and others looking to punch their ticket to the show.
With vacant spots up front, players like Joel Armia, Nikolaj Ehlers, Andrew Copp and Nic Petan have flourished in limited time against real NHL competition. With three games left in the exhibition slate, the task now is keeping that pedal pressed down.
Even the veterans are learning the ropes, to some degree. ‘Jets hockey’ proved successful last season, but even the most time-tested formulas need a revision each off-season to combat the competition. In other words, take what worked before, study it, and improve on it.
It’s all part of the plan to achieve excellence. After all, it's what the Jets are striving for – those ‘good habits’ that simulate game situations, and perhaps most importantly, the intensity with which they’re played.
That’s all to say that if practice day observations are any indication, hard work, defensive responsibility and a high demand from one another will once again define the team in 2015-16.
Young and old or new to the fold, the teaching never stops.
LINEMATES NEW AND OLD
Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd took part in the first of two sessions earlier today, but neither player will be available for tomorrow’s game in Minnesota.
It’s possible both will play Tuesday night vs. Ottawa.
“I feel good. … It’s nothing big. I didn’t feel it at all today,” Little said. “If it was the (regular) season I’d be playing, I’d be practicing and doing basically everything. (Maurice) is taking no chances and is being extra careful. He wants everyone 100 percent going into the season. I should be ready to go soon.
“I could have played last night, but it’s up to the coach. It only takes two or three games to get back into it anyway. It’s tough watching everyone else getting into games right now, so I’m excited to get back.”
Little skated on a line with Ladd and Alexander Burmistrov today.
“Pretty good,” Little said of the chemistry with his new winger. “I think the biggest thing with him is a lot of communication. He’s a natural centre, too. The easiest thing to do for a centre man is to go to wing, as opposed to a winger moving to centre. There’s a bit less (defensive) responsibility.
“Burmi looks more mature in how he carries himself and in how he plays. He was always a skilled guy but it looks like he’s worked on being a lot more responsible defensively.”
Burmistrov, who’s been at centre throughout camp so far, is excited for the opportunity to play with two of the team’s top offensive players.
“It’s big. It’s a big (opportunity) for me and I’ve got to step up and play my best game with them,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Burmistrov is still adjusting to the North American game after the spending the past two years in the KHL. The biggest difference, he says, after a pair of exhibition contests: Speed.
“You don’t see that a lot in the KHL. … It’s so weird, so different. But I’ve taken a lot from these last two games.”
While it’s a new position for Burmistrov – one he hasn’t played in quite some time – Maurice is confident it’s a role he can grow into.
“He’s got some skill, he moves the puck well and creates some space for his linemates. And I think he’s a pretty darn good defensive player at times, too.”
AROUND THE RINK
John Albert, Paul Postma and Tyler Myers were the only players to participate in today’s ‘IR skate’ – a short, non-contact practice reserved for those recovering from injury.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com