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Bag it for training camp

Maurice puts crew through their season's hardest workout

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Hearts were beating and tongues were wagging at the MTS Centre on Wednesday.

The Winnipeg Jets were put through their longest -- and most demanding -- practice of the season and possibly since their relocation in 2011.

The one-hour, 40-minute workout included the final 50 minutes of all skating, no pucks.

It seemed like an odd time for the so-called bag skate, with the team out of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs and playing the Boston Bruins tonight at the MTS Centre, Winnipeg's penultimate game of the season.

"We didn't really know it was coming, but it's what to look for next year at training camp, to get a taste of what it's going to be like next year," said Jets defenceman Paul Postma.

"I've had a few over my career," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "It's been a while, but good for the soul, I guess."

Jets defenceman Toby Enstrom suggested he almost enjoyed it.

"I don't remember the last time, but it feels good sometimes to really push yourself and get a good skate in," Enstrom said. "He (head coach Paul Maurice) wants to play the game at a high pace, and conditioning is a big part of it. It was something he wanted to show us."

The showing went on and on, but there was no mystery, no secret punishment, Maurice insisted.

"We will look to improve our overall group fitness," Maurice said. "I want them to be prepared for a tougher training camp than perhaps you're used to.

"There's no tangible 'What does he mean by that?' It was the first day I felt we could do it. I know it does not come at an easy time in our schedule. It just showed the team what a training-camp day looks like. Actually, training camp's going to be quite a bit harder."

Maurice said such an illustration of the future was not possible while the team was in contention for a playoff spot.

The skate took place in front of Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who, it should be noted, does watch practice frequently.

Maurice was asked if Wednesday's push on his players indicated he's the coach of the team next year. His future here remains unresolved.

He said only that this was the job he promised to do now.

"There hasn't been a day that I've approached differently from Day 1," the coach said. "I would do exactly what I do each day -- try to do the right thing for this franchise.

"That was part of the agreement with Kevin: Do everything you can to get us in the playoffs and set a foundation we can judge and start from. If the decision was made that another coach would be coming in, at least until that decision, I'd like to think they're going to train very hard for camp."

One interesting -- and probably positive -- sign in the practice was Ladd's participation. He was in an orange no-contact jersey because of an unspecified injury and isn't likely to play again this season.

"His legs were good and it was a good day for him to be out there," Maurice said. "I'm not sure he's playing (the final two games). Pretty sure he's not."

Said Ladd: "I think, as the captain of this team, when something like this happens, you want to be out there with your teammates."

Ladd was asked how he felt when it was over.

"You just push yourself and keep pushing, and I don't know if it feels like anything, I guess," he said. "At the end, you're kind of numb and just pushing to get through it. You have to go through it to know what it feels like.

"Sometimes you think you're working hard and there's a whole new level."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2014 D2

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