From the sounds of things, every member of the Winnipeg Jets got exactly what they wanted from Santa Claus.
That present: Two whole days away from hockey.
"It was a good Christmas – I think the two days off was the best part of it," forward Blake Wheeler said after practice at MTS Centre this morning. "It was nice to just focus on your family and friends, and some of the things that matter more in life."
While a couple of days in the non-NHL world might not seem like a lot, the time away from the rink is considered a lengthy vacation during the hockey season. Rest and relaxation was the popular gift of choice, many players said, but some weren’t convinced the league-mandated two-day break actually served its intended purpose.
The holiday season can be just as exhausting as the normal routine, some say.
"A lot of guys had family in town; I don’t know if they’re more rested or less rested," head coach Claude Noel said. "We’ll see."
The Jets, holding a 16-14-5 record heading into the unofficial second half of the season, went through a spirited 70-minute workout today in preparation for Tuesday’s road contest with the Colorado Avalanche (8 p.m., TSN Jets, TSN 1290). Given the extra rest day and the Christmas turkey that goes along with the season, Noel was genuinely pleased with what he saw as his team returned to work.
"Some guys were a little bit rusty but I thought it was pretty good... you got to get back on the ice and get your hands going, get your head back into the hockey," he said. "Obviously we’re facing a hot Colorado team right now.
"It will be a back-to-back-night for them, so hopefully we can take advantage of that."
The Jets were scheduled to depart for Denver this afternoon, where they’ll wait for an Avalanche club that plays in Minnesota tonight. While Winnipeg hopes to capitalize on a tired host Tuesday night, Colorado is on a roll in the mountains having won eight straight games inside the Pepsi Center.
Not making the trip for the Jets will be Bryan Little. His foot injury is coming along slower than expected and probably won't be available at all this week.
In other injury news, defenceman Dustin Byfuglien left the practice early with an undisclosed injury. "He’s just got nagging injuries that we have to be aware of and we have to just keep monitoring," Noel said, showing no concern regarding Byfuglien's status for Tuesday. "He tweaks things once in a while that you just have to keep on top of."
Winnipeg next sees action at home Thursday night, when they host the Los Angeles Kings.