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Patrik Laine surging for Jets after injury

Named NHL Rookie of the Month for February, says absence helped

by Scott Billeck / Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- Patrik Laine missed eight games with a concussion in January, but the Winnipeg Jets right wing said it was a much-needed break, one that set him up for an award-winning February.

The 18-year-old, who had 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 11 games, was named NHL Rookie of the Month on Wednesday.

"I think it was easier than I thought to get back," said Laine, who returned Jan. 24. "I think I needed that break after the first half [of the season] and I think I've played well after the injury."

Video: MIN@WPG: Laine roofs one-timer from the slot

Now Laine, who is tied for the NHL rookie lead in goals (31) with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews and leads rookies with 56 points, wants to continue scoring while helping the Jets make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time since they moved to Winnipeg in 2011.

"Obviously, I want to score more goals," Laine said. "But the most important thing is to improve mine and my team's game and our goal is to go to the playoffs."

The Jets, who play the St. Louis Blues at home on Friday (8 p.m. ET; TSN3, FS-MW, NHL.TV), are five points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

Laine, the No. 2 pick behind Matthews in the 2016 NHL Draft, had at least one point in eight games in February. He had six multipoint games and a six-game point streak (eight goals, four assists) to close the month.

Laine scored his third NHL hat trick on Feb. 14 in a 5-2 win against the Dallas Stars, becoming the first player in League history to have three hat tricks prior to his 19th birthday (April 19), and is the first rookie to have three hat tricks in one season since 1992-93.

Video: WPG@TOR: Laine hammers home one-timer from the circle

Among rookies, Laine ranks first in shooting percentage at .200 and is tied with William Nylander of Toronto for the lead with eight power-play goals. Laine is second to Matthews among rookies in game-winning goals with five, third in shots on goal with 155, and fifth in power-play points with 12.

Laine downplayed the race for the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL Rookie of the Year.

"No, I'm just thinking about the playoffs," Laine said.

He said he was happy to receive his first Rookie of the Month honor.

"It's nice to always get those things," Laine said. "I had a good month, so it's nice to get that reward. It was nice news."

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