September 21, 2017

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Record: 40 – 35 – 7

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Winnipeg Jets (40 – 35 – 7)

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Laine hit the gym, not the ice, in preparation of sophomore season

Patrik Laine has laboured long and hard to develop his skating and uncanny puck skills.

But, like many Europeans who play in the NHL, on-ice prep is not an off-season priority.

"I just skated six or seven times," said Laine Tuesday morning between his first sessions at the Iceplex since returning to Winnipeg from Finland. "We don't skate a lot. We just work out at the gym, doing dryland (training)."

Any shooting drills? "No," he replied.

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Patrik Laine has laboured long and hard to develop his skating and uncanny puck skills.

But, like many Europeans who play in the NHL, on-ice prep is not an off-season priority.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Patrik Laine</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Patrik Laine

"I just skated six or seven times," said Laine Tuesday morning between his first sessions at the Iceplex since returning to Winnipeg from Finland. "We don't skate a lot. We just work out at the gym, doing dryland (training)."

Any shooting drills? "No," he replied.

The 6-4 Laine looked a little bigger ("four or five kilos, that's pretty good for me," he said) and, judging by Tuesday's small sample size, his shot seems to have lost none of its velocity or accuracy. And his release appears to be as ridiculously quick as it was last season, too.

The Finnish scoring sensation took the NHL by storm last year — his rookie season. Laine, who turned 19 on April 19, scored 36 goals and 64 points in 73 games and was the runner-up to Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs in Calder Trophy voting for the NHL's top rookie.

Does he have a number in mind for 2017-18?

"It's the playoffs," said Laine. "That's my only goal and, for myself, to try and be a better player this season and to help my team win more games."

Where Laine eventually lands this season, as a left- or right-winger, could impact his production and possibly his defensive play. He played on both sides with the Jets last season but, although he's right-handed, grew up in the game with a preference for his off side.

However, Jets head coach Paul Maurice believes his most effective position could be as a right-winger.

"Long term, I think his choice would be to play the left," said Maurice Monday. "But after the year on the right, when we moved him over, he agreed the game was easier for him on his forehand.

"I’m probably gonna start him on the left again, I know that’s where he wants to get to. As soon as he feels real comfortable and he can get up the ice on his off side then he’ll probably fit there. But he’s going to play left and right this year."

For Laine, it's not an issue.

"Well, I don't really care," said Laine. "If Paul wants me to be a lefty or right, I don't care. I can play both. There's some pros and cons in both."

Tuesday was Laine's first chance to rub shoulders with goaltender Steve Mason and defenceman Dmitry Kulikov, a pair of seasoned vets acquired via the unrestricted free-agent market.

"I think it looks really good," said Laine. "It's kinda like the same bunch of guys we had last year and a couple of new faces in the locker room. So, I think it looks really good. I'm excited to get the season started."

NOTEWORTHY: The Jets will hold medicals on Thursday with the start of training camp scheduled for Friday at the Iceplex. The club's fourth annual Fan Fest will be held on Saturday at the Iceplex. Admission is free for the event, which runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m... Jansen Harkins had two goals as the Jets prospects earned a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames in their final game of the YoungStars Classic rookie tournament in Penticton, B.C., Monday. Some of those participants will get invites to the start of main camp for the Jets or the AHL's Manitoba Moose.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Read more by Mike Sawatzky.

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