High sticks, bad reputation hurting Jets, Maurice says

Seems zebras pay particular attention to Winnipeg skaters

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The Winnipeg Jets know they have a penalty problem but seem powerless to do anything about it.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/12/2016 (2185 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Jets know they have a penalty problem but seem powerless to do anything about it.

Thursday, the Jets were victimized for three Edmonton power-play goals in four chances as the Oilers rolled to a 6-3 victory. Tonight, Winnipeg’s 25th-ranked penalty-killing unit faces the St. Louis Blues and their sixth-rated power play.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS - Patrick Laine celebrates his power play goal Friday night with Toby Enstrom and Matthieu Perreault.

“We can’t take that (many) penalties, that’s the one thing,” rookie sniper Patrik Laine said Friday. “And we have to be better in our PK, that’s for sure. We can’t allow the opponent to score three goals. (The Blues) have a lot of skill in their forwards, so we have to be careful with those guys and score on our opportunities.”

The trend is worrisome to alternate captain Mark Scheifele.

“We’re playing good teams,” he said. “Edmonton has a lot of skill. St. Louis has the same. Chicago (the opponent on Sunday) has the same. If we take that many penalties we’ll get burned. That’s something we have to fix.”

Stick fouls have been a major contributor to Winnipeg’s problems and head coach Paul Maurice believes his club’s reputation increases the risk.

“We have to do a much better job with our sticks,” he said. “We look at every one (of the penalties) and they are different. I don’t have anything to say to Matty Perreault on his (boarding) penalty (Thursday). He’s finishing his check, the guy turns and he comes off it, it’s a bump — you like it or you don’t.

“When you’re behind the game, you’re reaching in. You get careless and we’ve got to that point,” he said.

“At the same time, it’s human nature — there’s profiling. Right now, we’ve arced up into the numbers that say we take penalties, so you see those penalties. And you have a tendency to see those. So (a high stick to winger Marco Dano’s face) doesn’t get looked at… Ours are getting called. We can only control the piece that’s ours.”

High risk, reward

Dustin Byfuglien is famous for his tendency to gamble on the ice.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS The Oilers' Milan Lucic and Jets' Jacob Trouba watch asMark Letestu's shot gets past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck Thursday night. Letestu had two power play goals for the Oilers.

The all-star defenceman’s approach can backfire, however, and Maurice hinted Byfuglien’s been asked to tone down his offensive-zone pinches.

“He’s cut back on it and we’ve cut back on it,” said Maurice. “Some of that is a function of who you’re playing with and who you’re against… he’s actually done less of it. I’d agree with you at the start of the year. I don’t think he was doing more, he was doing the same volume but with different results.”

The Jets had a scaled-back workout Friday before departing for St. Louis.

Giving his second power-play unit extra practice time was high on the Maurice’s agenda. He also talked about putting Byfuglien in front of the net on the power play Thursday night, something the veteran D-man clearly isn’t crazy about.

“Yeah, I guess it was either that or sit on the bench,” said a smiling Byfuglien.

Maurice made no apologies, suggesting it was something he will try again.

“We’re finally getting people back in the lineup that we can kind of start to look at things that are on our radar and on… our whiteboard for quite a while,” he said. “Dustin Byfuglien net-front is one of those things.”

Having lefty shooters such as Nikolaj Ehlers and the returning Mathieu Perreault has been helpful.

“We’ve been waiting for an awfully long time to get some get some left-handed shots to put Patrik (Laine) in a position that he likes to shoot the puck from,” said Maurice. “He scores pretty much all his goals from the same areas, we’ve seen. But it’s a far more effective power play when the puck doesn’t run through him.”

laine’s lasers

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS Paul Maurice had Dustin Byfuglien in front of the Oilers' net on the power play Thursday night.

Laine leads all NHL rookies with 15 goals. But what’s the real secret to his shooting ability?

“It’s a good question, I’d love to know,” said Byfuglien. “Some guys just know how to shoot it. It’s amazing how he can shoot that thing sometimes.”

Laine has a simple explanation.

“I’ve practised a lot but I think you must have some kind of gifts so you can create a shot like that,” he said. “You can’t create a shot like that without practice and I’ve done so many hours of work to get my shot (to) where it is now. And just try to improve that every day.”

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

History

Updated on Friday, December 2, 2016 4:35 PM CST: Photos reordered.

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