Patrik Laine is off to an excellent start with 12 points in 10 games, but he admitted Monday the frenetic early season schedule in 2019-20 has been taxing.
The 21-year-old Finn was absent from training camp before signing a two-year, US$13.5-million contract with the Jets on Sept. 27.
He saw his first action in Winnipeg’s regular-season opener in New York on Oct. 3.
"Yeah, I think it’s been a pretty tough start for me," Laine said following Monday’s practice at Bell MTS Place. "I think we had nine games in 15 days or something and no training camp and no pre-season games, so it was kinda a tough start, but I’m feeling pretty good.
"After last night, we still gotta battle through one more (tonight against the visiting Los Angeles Kings) and a couple of days off and go to Regina (for the Heritage Classic outdoor game against the Calgary Flames on Saturday). It should be a fun experience."
Blue-liner Neal Pionk was promoted to Winnipeg’s No. 1 power-play unit on the club’s second chance against the Edmonton Oilers Sunday night and for two more power-play opportunities after that.
He was working with the top unit again in Monday’s practice.
"I think any player would appreciate it, but now you’ve gotta take advantage of the opportunity, so whatever it takes to help the team win," Pionk said.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice praised his much-maligned defensive crew Monday, noting Connor Hellebuyck’s 1-0 shootout victory over the Oilers came in Winnipeg’s 10th regular-season game of 2019-20.
"At the end of the day, it took us five-and-a-half months to get Helly a shutout last year, right?" Maurice said.
"That’s a fact. That was a pretty expensive blue-line, so these guys are doing some pretty good things."
Defenceman Anthony Bitetto (lower body) was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 19 but is now considered day-to-day. Maurice said the 29-year-old from Island Park, N.Y., participated in a full-contact skate Monday and will have his status re-evaluated today.
Bitetto has one assist in eight games this season.
Meanwhile, defenceman Nathan Beaulieu (upper body) and centre Mark Letestu (undisclosed) remain on injured reserve.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
Updated on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at 11:40 AM CDT: corrects fraction symbol error