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Hockey feeling fun again for Laine after dry spell

Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine (29) celebrates his empty net goal against the Arizona Coyotes with Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers (27) and Jets center Bryan Little (18) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Jets defeated the Coyotes 4-1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)</p>

Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine (29) celebrates his empty net goal against the Arizona Coyotes with Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers (27) and Jets center Bryan Little (18) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Jets defeated the Coyotes 4-1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It’s been 13 days since Patrik Laine delivered his “feels like hockey is really hard right now” speech to a group of reporters. Since then, the 19-year-old Finn has made the game look much easier.

The Jets’ sophomore right-winger scored a goal in each of the next five games and has nine goals in 17 games to begin the season.

Does he feel like his confidence is back after busting out of a four-game goal drought?

“Maybe not 100 per cent, but it’s getting higher all the time,” Laine said Tuesday morning. “It feels like hockey — it isn’t getting easier, I mean — but it feels like a lot of fun.”

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It’s been 13 days since Patrik Laine delivered his "feels like hockey is really hard right now" speech to a group of reporters. Since then, the 19-year-old Finn has made the game look much easier.

The Jets’ sophomore right-winger scored a goal in each of the next five games and has nine goals in 17 games to begin the season.

Does he feel like his confidence is back after busting out of a four-game goal drought?

"Maybe not 100 per cent, but it’s getting higher all the time," Laine said Tuesday morning. "It feels like hockey — it isn’t getting easier, I mean — but it feels like a lot of fun."

Laine has been trying to shoot more, accounting for five or more shots in three of the last six games. He did not register a shot on net against the Arizona Coyotes Tuesday night and also scored on his lone shot against the Stars in Dallas Nov. 6. Three of his last five goals came on the power play.

"Yeah, it’s still goals," Laine said. "It’s always nice to score, even if it’s a power-play goal. That’s a huge part of our game that we need to get the power play on the level that we need. It’s been so good so far."

Laine preferred to shoot himself out of a slump.

"I just like to shoot a lot," he said. "That’s the key, because if you’re not shooting, you’re not scoring. I try to shoot a lot after the four-game streak that I had and I’ve scored in five consecutive games — so just try to shoot often."

Jets head coach Paul Maurice grinned when asked to comment on Laine’s emergence after the dry spell.

"I think my answer (then) was he’s smarter than all of us," Maurice said. "I think he had that whole thing, I’m not saying scripted, but he puts pressure on himself because I think he enjoys it in some ways. He’s hard on himself. Kind of, filleting himself in front of the world there, the hockey world, somehow gets him going, somehow drives him more.

"So when he’s not playing well, he’s angry and grumpy. And then he played a little harder, so he gets a little bit snarly out there in that (Dallas) game and things start to go for him. Now he’s in that mood, right? That line has been… there’s a place for improvement for that line and he’s part of that. It’s not all roses yet. But he can score every night if he’d like. We’re good with it."

Laine has heard the concerns about his line’s production, Winnipeg’s No. 2 unit, but didn’t sound worried that he and linemates Nikolaj Ehlers and Bryan Little have fallen short of their potential.

Little scored his second goal of the season Tuesday, his first in 11 games, while Ehlers has eight, but is scoreless in four and has only one goal in his last six games.

"I think we have three really good guys on our line, so we just need to be more simple, get pucks in deep and try to move a lot in the zone," Laine said. "I think we’ve tried to dangle our way through and that’s not the way you want to play. I think the key is we need to be more simple on the ice."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Read more by Mike Sawatzky.

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Updated on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 7:42 AM CST: Updated

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