Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice said recently signed forward Patrik Laine won’t be in Sunday’s lineup for the team’s final preseason game in Minnesota, but the expectation is he’ll be ready to go Thursday in New York for the regular-season opener against the Rangers.

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Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice said recently signed forward Patrik Laine won’t be in Sunday’s lineup for the team’s final preseason game in Minnesota, but the expectation is he’ll be ready to go Thursday in New York for the regular-season opener against the Rangers.

"That would be what I’m expecting to see. If something changes I’ll let you know," Maurice told reporters after Saturday’s workout at the Bell MTS Iceplex. "Being that he’s been training and he’s been training with men, our expectation is he’ll be able to come in and move around the ice pretty good."

Laine, who signed a two-year bridge deal Friday worth an annual average value of US$6.75 million, will return to Winnipeg on Sunday after spending the entire training camp skating with a pro team in Switzerland. The 21-year-old Finnish sniper will then undergo physical and medical testing and if all goes well will begin practising immediately.

"Really important in that he does get to start the season, get some practices in and get into a rhythm right from the get-go," added Maurice. "It’s good that he was at least on the ice with a professional hockey team. We had a tough camp and there’s a benefit to that, for sure, and he missed out on that benefit but great that he’s in before the start."

Maurice was asked if he felt that Laine might be behind the others in terms of condititioning, and if that was a concern considering the season is right around the corner.

"I don’t know if concern would be the right word. If it is we’ll get him up to speed," he said. "The guys that miss training camp sometimes are behind and sometimes they’re not. But we’ll just work with it."

Laine has been the Jets’ best pure goal scorer since being drafted second overall in 2016. He has 110 goals through three seasons – the 6th most among all NHL players during that time – but is coming off his most disappointing season in 2018-19, where he registered just 30 goals and 20 assists.

It was predicted by many that Laine would eventually ink a shorter-term contract, if only to prove to the Jets that last season was merely a down year. There’s more than enough reason to expect a bounce-back season, one closer to the 2017-18 campaign where Laine scored 44 goals – second that year to only Alexander Ovechkin (49) of the Washington Capitals.

Either way, many in the Jets locker room were happy to hear the news of Laine’s return, and look forward to welcoming him back into the mix.

"You don’t want guys walking around and not telling the truth. You want honesty and you get that from Patty." ‐ Nikolaj Ehlers, on comments Laine made about his linemates

"He does want to stay. He wants to play for the Winnipeg Jets and we want to have him here," Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers, a close friend of Laine, said. "He’s a great guy on and off the ice and he’s obviously a pretty amazing player. It’s going to be good having him back and hopefully he can get right back into the routine of playing games again and get the season started."

"We’re obviously excited to have him back and he makes us a better team so we’re excited to get him back in here," added captain Blake Wheeler.

There also appears to be no hard feelings after Laine created some media buzz during his absence, including saying some seemingly disparaging comments about some of his past linemates. Those quotes were published in a Finnish paper earlier this month, which prompted Laine to ultimately apologize to centreman Bryan Little.

A friendly presence among reporters, Laine is certainly appreciated for his candour, though sometimes his comments can be misinterpreted. As far as his teammates are concerned, he is being welcomed back with open arms.

"That’s what everyone wants. That’s what we, as players, want. You don’t want guys walking around and not telling the truth," Ehlers said. "You want honesty and you get that from Patty. If you look at that comment I know Patty well enough and he would never say anything like that and…s–t happens."

The team comfirmed forward Kyle Connor, signed a seven-year $50-million dollar contract with the Jets Saturday night.

"Our group has been good. We’ve had a lot to deal with throughout camp and the guys that have showed up and put the work in we’re forming a pretty tight group here," Wheeler said. "It’s going to be great to welcome guys back whenever they get here and, obviously, we know Patty is coming back next week. We’ll have him for the first game and hopefully we can hit the ground running."

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

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Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.