Laine waiting to reap his training rewards

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PITTSBURGH — Patrik Laine believes his scoring chances are up from last season, but he's still waiting for the benefits of his off-season training to kick in.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/10/2017 (1861 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

PITTSBURGH — Patrik Laine believes his scoring chances are up from last season, but he’s still waiting for the benefits of his off-season training to kick in.

The 19-year-old Jets right-winger eschewed more extensive on-ice workouts in the off-season for extra time in the weight room and added about five kilograms to his 6-5 frame.

His life in the NHL, he insisted, hasn’t changed much after a phenomenal 36-goal rookie campaign.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine checks Minnesota Wild's Jonas Brodin into the corner during the second period in Winnipeg on Friday. Laine is still waiting to reap the benefits of his off-season weight-training regimen which saw him gain 5 kg.

“No, I would say the same as last year,” Laine said following Winnipeg’s Thursday morning skate at PPG Paints Arena, where the Jets were preparing to play the Penguins. “Obviously, I’m in better shape than last year but I don’t feel like it yet. But I think it’s gonna be better every game…

“I tried to be better overall. I didn’t have one specific thing I wanted to improve.” There should be no concerns about his ability to score. In seven games so far in 2017-18, Laine has four goals and six points while shooting at a 16 per cent clip, which is down from 17.6 per cent in his rookie season. His ice time is also down slightly, from 17:55 to the current rate of 17:28 playing on a line with centre Bryan Lilttle and left-winger Nikolaj Ehlers. 

His main concern now? 

“Skating feels kinda heavy,” Laine said. “That’s probably one thing why it feels heavier because I haven’t skated a lot… but I know it’s going to feel a lot better maybe after Christmas or before that. Just waiting for that moment.”

ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL: all-star Penguins defenceman Kris Letang has made the long, labourious trek back from major surgery and says he’s feeling pretty good just six months after undergoing a procedure to correct a herniated disc in his neck.

“I feel fine right now and I keep trying to build my game and be more consistent,” said the 30-year-old Letang, who took a maintainence day Wednesday before returning to the ice Thursday morning. “Having a day off allowed me to rest and get ready for (Thursday against the Jets).”

Letang was limited to 41 games last season, but still managed to rack up five goals and 34 points. He did not participate in Pittsburgh’s playoff run to a second consecutive Stanley Cup. In 10 games this season, he has one goal and five points while logging a team-high 26:05 of ice time per game.

The Penguins are also wrestling with a difficult schedule that has them playing 19 pairs of back-to-back games in 2017-18. That’s a league high, tied with the Ottawa Senators, spurring some talk about a league conspiracy designed to punish the Pens and Sens, who met in the Eastern Conference final last spring.

The Jets, meanwhile, are slated for nine back-to-backs this season after getting 13 in 2016-17.

“We’re all looking at the schedule, it’s a pretty busy schedule in November and October and so we’re trying to get as much rest as we can when the schedule allows,” said Letang, whose Penguins have already played three back-to-back series this season.  

“I don’t do the schedule and I think there’s a lot more politics in the scheduling than we know. Like some markets want different games and the league wants to put smaller markets in better situations, maybe… but at the end of the day, like Winnipeg, I’m pretty sure they travel more than us. If you have more back-to-backs, that’s one thing but I’m glad we’re not going East Coast, West Coast, back and forth all the time.” 

HIGH PRAISE FROM WHEELER: Jets captain Blake Wheeler says the Penguins are the team he wants to measure the Jets against.

“They are the template, you know what I mean,” Wheeler said of the reigning Cup champs. “They do what we’re trying to do the best and that’s why they’ve won back-to-back Stanley Cups. You talk about being better at defence, well, you know, they play enough defence because they have the puck all night because they’re fast and they transition well.

“They’re mature enough, they know how to win and at the end of a shift they’re not trying to score a goal. Just little things like that. I think they have enough confidence that they’re gonna create a scoring chance next shift or the shift after that, that they don’t need to try to do it every single shift.” 

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

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

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