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Training Camp Notebook

Coach Maurice on defence, and Saturday's preseason finale in Calgary

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Jets close out the preseason tomorrow night in Calgary against the Flames.

After back-to-back wins over Calgary and Ottawa this week, the Jets are 2-3-1 in six exhibition games to this point, and boast a power play that has scored 12 times on 37 opportunities.

With the roster sitting at 19 forwards, eight defencemen, and two goaltenders, head coach Paul Maurice says Saturday's preseason finale is a big one for players battling for the precious final spots on the roster.

"There are four or five guys here that are fighting for two or three jobs, and all of them can play in the NHL. They're all good players," said Maurice. "How they fit becomes more important, and what else do they do besides sit on the bench and play the odd five-on-five shift. Can they jump in and help you on the power play or can they kill penalties? That's a really important piece."

Video: CAMP | Paul Maurice

As far as the line-up for Saturday goes, Maurice is waiting to finalize his as long as he can. With the regular season opener against Toronto less than a week away, the coach is making sure his line-up is as healthy as possible.

"Right now, just Hendricks and Lowry," noted Maurice, adding both players - who didn't skate today - will get on the ice tomorrow before the flight to Calgary.

"All the other ones are playable guys for sure in the regular season. But if somebody wakes up with a cold tomorrow that is playing Wednesday night, we're not bringing him."

A win would be the fifth time since relocation in 2011 that the Jets have recorded at least three victories in the preseason.

DEFENCE FIRST

A big focus throughout camp has been on the defensive side of the puck, as the team aims to improve on their goals against this season.

In 2016-17, the Jets allowed the fourth most goals in the NHL (255). But just because the goal is to improve that stat, it doesn't mean the team's gifted offence will slow down.

Video: CAMP | Patrik Laine

Just ask Patrik Laine, who led the Jets in goals last season with 36.

"When I played in Finland, our top priority was defence on our team. That was the main thing, how we got the championship in Finland (with Tappara in the Finnish Liiga)," said Laine. "That's not a new thing for me. That's been my top priority in the game the past couple years. If you defend well, you have a good chance to win and you can still win championships with a good defence, and especially with a good offence on top of that."

Winnipeg had the seventh-most goals in the league last season, and Maurice feels that with the team one year older, the dynamic offensive players will only improve, both offensively and defensively.

"A lot of the gifted offence still has a lot of offence to learn about," said Maurice. "We've got enough offence to score enough goals to put ourselves in a position to win hockey games. But we're not built right now to play that passive, grinding defensive game. That's not where our strengths are, so we've got to get good enough in terms of our speed and quickness, and our original positioning, to get that right.

"You can make a real strong argument that we'll score more goals. Just on age. Each year these guys get a little older. I don't think anybody got all the lucky last year offensively. We can expect them to mature into really smart offensive players as well."

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