It has been a rarity in the condensed National Hockey League schedule, especially here in Winnipeg, but there it was on full display at the MTS Centre Monday morning:
A full 55-minute Jets’ practice.
Yes, in a season that has jammed 48 games into a run from mid-January to the end of April, the Jets — who are tied with Nashville with the most games played at 40 — have had little chance for full on-ice sessions. They’ve been on the ice almost daily, but there have been more optional skates than full practices — Monday’s workout featured 23 skaters and two goalies — and that hasn’t given the coaching staff much time to fine-tune or fix problem areas.
"We haven’t practised in… I can’t remember the last time we had a practice," said Jets’ coach Claude Noel Monday. "Today we worked on some things we hadn’t worked on in a long, long time. Just rush attacks and D-zone coverage and stuff. It gives you an opportunity to do some things and to get better with a lot of different things. It’s good to get back to that and as we’re moving forward through the month it’s going to continue like that."
"It was actually nice," added Evander Kane. "Usually during an NHL season you practice every day. We haven’t had a practice in a long time, so it was good to get out there and do some drills with your linemates."
The Jets continue their six-game homestand Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m., TSNJets/TSN 1290) and enter Monday’s NHL action in 10th spot in the Eastern Conference with 40 points on a 19-19-2 record — just two points out of eighth and two behind the Southeast Division Washington Capitals.
That essentially gives the Jets two routes to the playoffs — winning the division, or trying to catch the eighth-seed.
"We’ve known that for awhile. We have two opportunities," said Noel. "We have to win games, no matter how you do it… especially the ones that are in our division. It’s really no secret. I watch the standings and what’s going on, they affect our daily existence. It’s something we’re aware of and we’re going to focus on Buffalo."
Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd left practice midway through the session on Monday, but Noel said he will be in the lineup vs. the Sabres.
"He’s just banged up. He’ll be OK for tomorrow."