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Jets, Panthers focused on results in Finland

Teams hold spirited practices day before first game at 2018 Global Series

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

HELSINKI -- Paul Maurice figured Wednesday would be the day the Winnipeg Jets would flip the switch from enjoying the sights in Finland's capital city to truly begin preparing for their two games against the Florida Panthers at the 2018 NHL Global Series.

He was right. 

With hundreds of fans on hand at Hartwall Arena to watch practice, the Jets coach wasn't shy about barking orders at his players in advance of the game on Thursday (2 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN3, NHL.TV). 


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"The language deteriorated considerably on the ice in practice today," Maurice said. "We want to take full advantage of this trip. This is my second time in Helsinki and it was a different trip that time because it was the start of the season and we weren't here that long. We want them to get together and have fun and not make it all business all the time.

"[But] today was the day. Yesterday was just a work-through day. You kind of try to get on the time zone and not critique too much of what we were doing on the ice. But today we were grinding a little harder and our pace was much better today than it was yesterday. We were far more focused on the ice, and now we've got two really important business days coming up here."

Jets right wing Patrik Laine is enjoying this rare occasion to be in his native country during the season, but also recognized the shift in attitude on the eve of the first game.

"We're getting closer and closer to the games, so obviously we're going to act like that on the ice and off the ice," said Laine, who left the ice to shrieks from Finnish children who had perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see him. "I think yesterday was just kind of just a fun skate after a few days off, and today it was just trying to get better and work on our game. Tomorrow, just have a good morning skate and hopefully play a hard game."

Video: Sights and sounds from Jets practice in Finland

It was the same attitude earlier in the day when the Panthers also practiced in front of a live audience. Forward Aleksander Barkov reiterated that his team is also not in town to simply put on a show for his fellow countrymen. 

"Maybe in warmups," Barkov said. "When the puck drops, it's game on. It doesn't matter where you play, you want to get those points. We came here to try to win those games, and we're going to do everything we can to win. The same thing with Winnipeg. We're not going to any shows in the middle of the game or anything like that.

"We're just going to play as hard as we can and try to adjust to the atmosphere. I know it's going to be really nice to play here and good fans and everything will be different than America, but it's still really big points for us." 

Points are crucial for the Panthers, who are off to a 2-4-3 start and have one regulation/overtime victory. Although they want to enjoy this trip to Finland, they realize the importance of finding ways to start stringing victories together.

Video: Stanley Cup and it's keeper travel around Tampere, FI

"We're just trying to make sure that we have good, hard practices, staying focused on it," Panthers forward Troy Brouwer said. "It's a little bit of an unusual situation. Winnipeg's staying in the same hotel as us, so we seem them every day. For a couple of us, we know a lot of the guys on the other team.

"We're trying to keep it business. We'll still have some fun as well. That's the biggest thing is making sure that we try and get some points, because we've put ourselves in a little bit of a situation where we need to start collecting some points pretty quickly, otherwise we're going to lose some ground on the pack. That's our main focus. We had some good meetings today, a good practice yesterday and today. We're just kind of looking forward to getting back into game mode tonight and tomorrow."

They'll have to do so in what is expected to be an electric atmosphere at Hartwall Arena. The players know the practices Wednesday were a small sample of what's to come.

"These guys don't get to see us very often, so I know the kids really enjoy things like this," Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien said. "A lot of adults do too. It's good to see the crowds there and the people, knowing that we came over here and we're getting good support is really good.

"We know we need the two points. In this league right now, a couple of points can be big down the stretch. We've got to come ready to work. We know they are, so we've just got to match them and be better." 

*** exclusive: Finnish five-time Stanley Cup champion Esa Tikkanen talks about the wave of young Finnish stars:

Tiki riemuissaan nuorten suomalaisten esiinmarssista


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