WINNIPEG - For the first time since training camp's on-ice sessions began on Sept. 13, the Winnipeg Jets were down to just one group on Wednesday.
Previous to this, there had been two separate groups - and a smaller third group for any skaters who were dealing with any minor injury.
A total of 15 forwards, eight defencemen, and two goalies took part in today's session at Bell MTS Iceplex, which lasted just over an hour.
The reason for the cut down to one group is that 13 players were reassigned this morning, leaving 32 remaining in camp.
"The numbers were based on, not even injuries, some of the things we're dealing with in our room, we want to make sure we have only healthy bodies in our line-up," Maurice said. "We're being really cautious with any of the NHLers that we know are going to be on the team."
The Jets have two preseason games remaining. The first is on Thursday at home against the Edmonton Oilers, followed by the preseason finale on Sunday afternoon in Minnesota against the Wild.
"I'd like to get pretty close to our line-up for the last game in Minnesota," Maurice said. "So we kept enough to make sure we dressed a full, healthy roster."
Video: TRAINING CAMP | Paul Maurice
Not on the ice
Josh Morrissey didn't take part in today's skate after missing the entire third period in Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the Calgary Flames.
"He ended up feeling better after the game than he was feeling before," Maurice said. "We're planning on putting him on the ice unless something happens tonight and it tightens up. We're not worried about that one at all."
Other non-participants in today's session included Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, David Gustafsson, Sami Niku, Logan Stanley, and Eric Comrie.
Maurice expects some of those skaters to be participants tomorrow, but the main thing he's keeping in mind right now is player health - especially with opening night just over a week away.
"We have a couple of different looks on the board of lines we would start if everybody had been healthy. We'll just try and get as close to that as we can - pairs up front, even if we can get two guys together, that's about it," Maurice said. "We'll get into practice next week and hopefully we're healthy and we can get a couple good ones with. There's enough familiarity up front, there's not going to be anything that we haven't at least seen pieces of."
Today's line rushes were as follows, with some defencemen rotating in as drills progressed:
Video: TRAINING CAMP | Jack Roslovic
While Maurice has a few key themes that he's had his team focusing on since the start of camp, the players have also spent a lot of time on puck skills along the boards.
Those skills have been at the top of mind since development camp for some players. Jack Roslovic is well versed in them and says skills like meeting the puck or rolling with it along the wall is important at the NHL level.
"Those little fundamentals happen so many times in a game, you don't even realize it," said Roslovic. "So perfecting that, that can keep you 15 or 20 more seconds in the offensive zone. That can lead to a goal or a scoring chance, so little things like that are very important to work on."
As far as those themes go, Maurice has kept them to himself. However, he did shed some light on what he's especially liked from the start of camp.
"In terms of everybody doing the exact same thing on the ice. Blake Wheeler's game right now defensively looks exactly like, pick whoever that 12th forward is, they're all doing the same thing," Maurice said. "The focus on that has been really good from day one. How it translates when we get to the regular season, you don't know any year. But I'm happy with where we are today. I really am."
Video: TRAINING CAMP | Ville Heinola
Ville Heinola, Winnipeg's first round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, is one of the players that made it through the first group of cuts today. He's one of 11 defencemen remaining in camp.
While it has been an adjustment for him getting used to the different sized ice surface, he's happy with where his game is at.
"I'm closer to playing in the NHL and I'm learning how to play there," Heinola said.
"The game here is different. Guys are stronger and faster and of course the smaller rink makes for a different game. But it feels good and every day is better."
Standing at 6'0" and weighing 181 pounds, Heinola has quickly learned - whether through experience or from advice from his teammates - that he's going to have to win battles differently than some other defencemen in the league.
"I need to play more with my stick and try to be clever," he said. "I don't like to hit that much, so I like to play with my stick."