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Trouba, Jets looking to build off win in Vegas

Jets practiced in Scottsdale ahead of road trip finale against Arizona on Sunday

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona - Quick and efficient would accurately describe the Winnipeg Jets practice session Saturday afternoon at the Ice Den in Scottsdale.

The skate lasted just a shade under half an hour, but it was just the type of workout the team needed after a 6-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights the night before.

Six Jets had multi-point nights in the win including defenceman Jacob Trouba. His three assists on the night brought him up to 34 points this season - a new career high.

"I don't really try to force anything or do anything differently five-on-five. I know what I think makes me a good hockey player," said Trouba. "It's not always getting up there and forcing offence. Just take it when it comes and if you get the chance to be on the power play and get that opportunity, just try to make the right plays."

Two of Trouba's assists came on the power play, which went 2-for-4 against the Golden Knights and now has three goals on the last eight opportunities.

"That's a hard power play to kill. I think of it as a penalty killer's perspective - 'what is the most dangerous? What do you want to give up?' There's not really a good option," said Trouba. "Especially when (Blake Wheeler) is coming down that wall and he has that ability to make those seam passes to (Mark Scheifele) and (Patrik Laine). (Kyle Connor) is a threat in front of the net. It's hard to defend."

Video: PRACTICE | Jacob Trouba

Jets head coach Paul Maurice almost sees Trouba as somewhat of a "throwback" defenceman. He can play the physical game (his 84 hits are the fifth most on the team), he can block shots (the 122 he's prevented from getting to the Jets net are the most on the team), but he also has an offensive side.

"He's got a little more power play time this year. Part of it is Dustin's absence, part of it is running on the other unit which was good when he was there as well," said Maurice. "He's been given more of an opportunity and it's something he's always wanted."

Heading into Saturday's action, the Jets hold down the Central Division's top spot with one-quarter of the regular season schedule remaining. 

The win in Vegas pushed their record 37-20-4, but given the adversity the team has faced over the last few weeks, Trouba said the Jets are far from satisfied.

"We have to come out tomorrow and play the same game," Trouba said, as the Jets wrap up a three-game road trip against the Coyotes tomorrow. "I don't think anybody was panicked. We wanted to correct the problem, but we have the confidence to know what our team is capable of and how we can play."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

Maurice felt one of the problems that was plaguing the team of late was what he referred to as "their gap."

It's a term used not just for the space between Winnipeg defencemen and opposing forwards, but the space given to the opposition as a whole all over the ice.

Against the Golden Knights, Maurice was happy with every aspect of the team's game, including their gap.

"Our forwards pressured the puck very hard from one end to the other. It allowed the gap - like you've heard me say over and over again - to happen," said Maurice.

"We were really good in that department."

But it doesn't get any easier from here. The Jets coach often refers to certain points of the season where the game changes or "picks up."

The first is around the holiday break, the next is coming out of the All-Star break. From there, it just continues to build.

Getting used to that is the challenge that faces Maurice and the Jets over the final 21 games of the regular season schedule.

"The adversity we're facing - we still have to go out and do it again and build a base of confidence. But it'll be a base of confidence in a different kind of game than we were playing in November," said Maurice.

"The game is different now. We have to adapt to the way the game is played now just as you have to adapt to the way the playoffs are played. That's why that experience is important."

ICE CHIPS

Blake Wheeler and Dmitry Kulikov didn't take part in the practice on Saturday, but Maurice said both players are good to go for Sunday's game.

Dustin Byfuglien continues to progress from his injury that kept him from traveling on the road trip.

Maurice believes the defenceman will get back on the ice next week. From there, it could be another week or two before Byfuglien is back in game action, depending on how his recovery goes.

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