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Patrik Laine's foot is still smarting and he'll likely be watching the Winnipeg Jets' next couple of games from the press box.
But his block of a hard drive by Los Angeles Kings' defenceman Alec Martinez Tuesday night did not result in any significant injury, Jets coach Paul Maurice said Thursday.
"There’s nothing broken and he’s got a bruise. When he gets his foot in the boot and feels comfortable, he’ll be back playing," Maurice told reporters following practice at Bell MTS Place.
Bryan Little took Laine's spot alongside centre Paul Stastny and winger Nikolaj Ehlers during the morning line rushes.
The Finnish sniper was struck by the shot early in the second period. He hobbled off the ice and needed help to get to the dressing room.
Laine has 43 goals (68 points) in 73 games games this season, just one behind league-leader Alex Ovechkin (44), the Washington Capitals' star left-winger.
Maurice was asked for an ETA on the sophomore winger's return.
"Four days to 14 days is probably the range we’ve seen in the past. That has nothing to do with (Laine), we’ll see how he heals," he said. "Early on, I would say it’s been very good. It’s quite a bit less swelling after Day 1 than Day 2. He’s motoring around on his own power."
Laine definitely won't play Friday when the streaking Anaheim Ducks come to town. Game time is 7 p.m (TSN 3, TSN 1290).
As for Sunday's 6 p.m. (Sportsnet, TSN 1290) tilt with the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators?
"I’m not shooting for that one. We’ll see," Maurice said.
Winnipeg (44-19-10) trails the Predators by eight points but is eight ahead of the third-place Minnesota Wild (41-24-8) in the Central. Both the Jets and Wild have nine contests left in the regular season and could meet in the first round of the playoffs if Minnesota can fend off the hard-charging Colorado Avalanche (40-25-8).
Maurice said there's no hurry to get Laine back in the lineup until he's good and ready.
"We’ll give it a few days. We want him to be able to skate, we want him to be able to play and in the situation that we’re in, we don’t want him hobbling around the ice," said Maurice. "We want him to be able to move pretty comfortably, so we’ll take as much time as we need until we get to that point. I just can’t give you the day."
The injury slammed the brakes on Laine's scorching 15-game point-scoring streak. He notched 18 goals and added eight assists during the stretch, which began Feb. 16 against the visiting Avalanche.
Little said Laine's absence, even a brief one, creates a sizable void.
"He’s such a big part of our team and of our offence. Just the power play alone, that leaves a big hole," he said.
Laine, who doesn't turn 20 until April 19, is the NHL's top power-play marksman, lighting the lamp 19 times thus far. He's four ahead of Tampa Bay Lightning centre Steve Stamkos and five up on Ovechkin, Dallas Stars centre Tyler Seguin and Pittsburgh Penguins centre Evgeni Malkin.
"He’s been playing really well lately, not just scoring goals, but doing everything well," added Little. "The way he got hurt, he’s blocking a shot for the team. It’s tough to lose a guy, especially when he’s playing like that."
Little (14G, 26A) has skated on the wing with centre Andrew Copp and Mathieu Perreault during the current home stand and doesn't expect any difficulty meshing with his new mates in Laine's absence.
"I always think for centremen switching to the wing is a bit easier. It’s just a matter of getting used to who I’m on the ice with, my linemates, and getting that chemistry going," he said.
Stastny has been a major contributor since his acquisition Feb. 26 at the trade deadline, scoring three goals and setting up seven others. Ehlers has nine points, including three goals in that period.
Little is hoping for a seamless transition during the temporary assignment.
"I’m going to try and, hopefully, keep them going. They’re on a roll and they’ve had really good chemistry since Day 1. Patty’s been on fire and those guys have been playing really well, so I want to come in and try not to disrupt that too much and, hopefully, pick up where they left they left off," he said.
Winnipeg, 3-0 on the home stand with victories over Chicago, Dallas and L.A., needs to maintain its momentum heading into the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Little said knocking heads with a rugged team like the Ducks (38-24-12), who are in a dogfight to land a playoff spot, is exactly what the Jets require to stay sharp.
"It gives the games more of a fast playoff feel. You’ve seen it the last few games here. They’ve all been fast, physical games, pretty tight defensively," he said. "So, it’s almost good for us. It gets us in the right mindset before playoffs."
Rookie forward Jack Roslovic is laid up with the flu and wasn't at the rink Thursday. He's the latest member of the squad to get bitten by the bug and could fill the roster spot left open by Laine's injury.
"He’s about the seventh or eighth guy we’ve dealt with on that," Maurice said. "If he feels strong (Thursday night) and good (Friday), he’ll be in and if he doesn’t, he won’t (play)," said Maurice.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
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Updated on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 3:38 PM CDT: Updated