Jets return to North America, host Avalanche
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The NHL can never be accused of ignoring one of the rarest issues in hockey today -- cross-Atlantic jet lag.
The Panthers, meanwhile, had six days off after splitting the two games before hosting the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.
Despite playing below expectations for the first month of the season, the Jets still sit fourth in the ultra-tough Central Division with 17 points, tied with the Avalanche.
They're hoping right winger Patrik Laine has adjusted his internal clock without losing his sniper's touch from Helsinki, where he scored a hat trick in the first game -- a Jets victory -- and added one more in the second, a loss.
The young Finn hasn't done enough, however, to merit a promotion from the third line, where he'll remain for the time being with center Adam Lowry and left winger Brandon Tanev. He remains on the first power-play unit.
Jets coach Paul Maurice said Laine handled the whirlwind trip to his homeland amazingly well, answering every interviewer's question -- often in two languages -- and signing countless autographs and posing for an endless stream of selfies. How he would perform in the pressure-packed environment in front of friends and family was a big question, especially with how he played in the days -- weeks, really -- up to the trip, fumbling the puck in key situations, failing to get the puck out of his own end and misfiring when he did get scoring chances.
"Shooters need confidence -- so his practices look different now than they did prior to (Helsinki)," Maurice told The Winnipeg Free Press. "He's moving more powerfully. He's adapted himself to the two guys he's playing with. I'm not sure I have that long-term, but it's the right direction for his personal game.
"A little harder, more direct. He's shooting the puck a little harder. He's got more confidence carrying it up the ice. So, we like what the boost is. You can do all the things to get a guy some confidence. But it doesn't work nearly as well as a goal."
The Avalanche come to town on the heels of a 4-1 loss at the Pepsi Center to the Central-leading Nashville Predators, which included a pair of disallowed goals by the home team. It was their fourth consecutive defeat following a winless three-game road trip.
"I've got to try to find the review, the replays that they have," coach Jared Bednar told The Denver Post after the game. "The two goals that got called back were just an aspect of our lack of execution."
The Avalanche have lost five of their last six after bursting out of the gate with a 6-1-2 record. Bednar said if his troops are going to turn their fortunes around, they'll need to limit their communication breakdowns, particularly in their own end of the ice.
"I think it's something that mature teams do real well," he said, "and we're just not quite there yet in that regard."