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Just a skate in the park

Jets get to be kids again in mid-Manhattan

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The Jets run a drill during a sunny outdoor practice Saturday morning at Lasker Ice Rink in New York City�s Central Park. They�re in town to play the Rangers Monday.

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The Jets run a drill during a sunny outdoor practice Saturday morning at Lasker Ice Rink in New York City�s Central Park. They�re in town to play the Rangers Monday.

NEW YORK -- Sunshine poured a little perspective on a fresh sheet of outdoor ice Saturday in Central Park for at least a few Winnipeg Jets.

The NHL team had given a sub-par effort Friday, losing 2-1 to Philadelphia, but had two open days before their next game here against the Rangers on Monday.

So the Jets rented the Lasker Ice Rink at the northern edge of the park and made fun, not recriminations, the focus for an hour Saturday morning.

"It was a perfect temperature for being outside," captain Andrew Ladd said of the clear morning and a temperature right around the freezing mark.

"I played in the Winter Classic in Chicago and I think it was a lot harder on the people watching than the guys working on the ice. We're able to keep ourselves pretty warm.

"It's nice to have a day like this and forget about everything for a day, just have some fun on the ice. I don't think there's anything wrong with it and I think you'll see a refreshed group tomorrow."

The 12-12-4 Jets will resume their regular practices today to prepare for the Rangers.

But Saturday was all about soaking it up instead of the Xs and Os.

"The sun was shining and we just had some fun out there, so it was a good day to kind of get back to having a little fun and carry that over to tomorrow and get ready for the game," said right-winger Blake Wheeler.

The Lasker rink's smaller-than-NHL size helped keep the focus on fun, and even on some memories, Wheeler said.

It's a little short on length and a lot short on width compared to the 200-by-85-foot NHL surface. That's so two rinks can be built inside of what's a swimming pool in the summer months

"Sometimes we lose sight of the fact we're playing a game, after all, and you know when you're outside and you see a bunch of kids that are going on the ice after us, and they're just enjoying it and having fun, it definitely brings you back to the basics of what it's all about," Wheeler said.

"That's sometimes good. You lose sight of that in a long season sometimes."

The artificial ice was excellent, centre Olli Jokinen raved.

"Really good over here, too. Really, really good ice," he said.

The timing for straying from the team's normal routine was good, Jokinen added.

"It's a team-building event and it's a good change-up -- hopefully," he said. "We'll practise tomorrow and go from there. The schedule is kind of not too bad for us right now. We only play three games this week. We're away from home, but it's on the road and you get a chance to know your teammates better, so it's good. A good day and I think guys had fun."

Jets coach Claude Noel, who favours these kinds of routine-breaking days, sounded pleased about another new experience.

"I think it was good -- good for the players today to remind you of growing up a little bit, especially most Canadian kids anyway," he said. "Just a fun day. For us, it just kind of loosens up and gets a little bit of team-building for the players, making it fun."

Given the relaxation day after the big disappointment Friday, Noel was asked if the team will be wiser about things for its next game.

"We hope that this is part of... team-building and moving forward," he said. "But that's a good question."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2013 B3

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