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Laine making magic for Jets, thanks to line juggling

Switch to playing with Copp, then Stastny, keying Winnipeg forward's run at Rocket Richard Trophy

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine had an assist in a 6-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday to set the NHL record for points in consecutive games by a teenager, 14 games that have yielded 24 points (16 goals, eight assists).

The genesis of Laine's record (which was held by Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, who had a 13-game streak as an 18-year-old in 2013-14), and his recent scoring run came a month ago, when Jets coach Paul Maurice juggled the lines and placed Laine, 19, and Nikolaj Ehlers, 22, with center Andrew Copp, 24, who normally plays among Winnipeg's bottom six.

It may have seemed like a demotion to Laine and Ehlers after each of them scored in a 6-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 16, but they were quick to get the message.

That game marked the start of Laine's record-setting streak and the start of a five-game goal-scoring streak (six goals), and the momentum carried over when the wings were switched to a line with center Paul Stastny against the Nashville Predators on Feb. 27.

Stastny, 32, was acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Blues the day before for a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, forward prospect Erik Foley and a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft if Foley does not sign with the Blues.

Video: WPG@WSH: Laine extends point streak, ties game

"The work ethic became higher when we were switched with Copp," Laine said. "I think after that, I just tried to work harder than I was before. I wasn't playing the same minutes I was before, so I just tried to work hard every shift and earn that ice time back.

"Now when Paul is here, it's been easy to play with him. He's a really good player and a guy who likes to talk about the game and the way he wants us to play."

Ehlers, who has 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 14 games since the initial line switch, agreed Copp was the key to getting he and Laine restarted.

"[Laine] is learning to play better and better and I think it started with me, [Copp] and Patty, that's when it started to go well," Ehlers said. "[Copp] brought in a lot of energy to the line when we weren't doing so well. 

"And [Stastny] is an unbelievable player and we've found some good chemistry right from the first game and when you can do that, it's great. You don't have to go through a whole period of getting used to each other."

Ehlers said there's good reason for raving about what Stastny has brought to the Jets (42-19-10), who are second in the Central Division, eight points behind the first-place Nashville Predators. Stastny had a goal Thursday and has nine points (three goals, six assists) in eight games with Winnipeg.

"He talks great to everyone in here," Ehlers said. "And he talks to everyone. We fit together. He's got so much experience that he can teach us, and he reads the game incredibly.

Video: The crew discusses Laine's continued hot streak

"For me, it was really easy to get used to playing with him but going back to playing with [Copp], when Patty started getting hot, they're kind of similar players and they bring a lot to the team, and it wasn't that big of a jump into Paul."

Laine's streak has taken him to 41 goals this season, second in the NHL to Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, who has 42, in the battle for the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading goal-scorer.

Laine, who turns 20 on April 19, has 77 goals in the NHL, third-most as a teenager behind center Jimmy Carson, who had 92 with the Los Angeles Kings, and Hall of Fame center Dale Hawerchuk, who had 85 with the original Winnipeg Jets.

Laine said Thursday he has benefited from playing with good players and the work he's been putting in.

"I've just tried to work hard; that's the key when you're doing all the defensive stuff," he said. "Doing that well, you might get rewarded at some point and I feel like I'm getting rewarded."

The result of work or his gifts?

"I think it's mostly a product of the work I've done," Laine said. "It doesn't matter how many gifts you have, you've got to work before you can use those gifts. But I'm not going to say I don't have any goal-scoring gifts. Of course I have, but it's 90 percent the work I've done.

"When your confidence is up, you don't have to squeeze your stick all the time … it's pretty easy to play. It's not easy, but it feels like things are going the right way and it's easier to produce something."

The more he scores, the more attention he has been drawing.

"I can't really notice the difference, especially 5-on-5," he said. "It's mostly just on the power play. There's not much room for me, but it's only a good thing because we have four other good guys on the power play, so they can have some extra room and they can finish."

None of what Laine has accomplished this season should surprise anyone, Ehlers said.

"No, it should not, because from the first year and the first camp, we saw what he can do," Ehlers said. "He's got 41 goals and he can shoot the puck … well, the only one I've seen shoot the puck like him is Ovi. I knew he was going to be a huge player for this team and it's showing. He showed it last year, and he's showing again this year and that's exciting for us."

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