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They tried to shake off the jet lag, get reacquainted with family and friends, catch a bit of sleep in their own beds and re-set their internal clocks to a seven-hour time change followed almost immediately by another hour rollback for daylight saving time.
And less than 24 hours after landing back on home soil from Helsinki they headed to a most familiar place, the hockey rink, to try to work out the kinks.
“I’m thrilled to be home,” Winnipeg Jets centre Adam Lowry said Sunday afternoon following a 45-minute practice at Bell MTS Iceplex.
The Jets beat the Florida Panthers 4-2 in the opener of the Global Series event last Thursday, then lost the re-match the following night by an identical score. They are 8-5-1 on the season.
Lowry was one of several players who struggled with spending the past week in Finland.
“I feel great now. Maybe not so much there, but now I feel like I’m back to normal. I don’t think a lot of us really adjusted the whole time we were there. It’s tough going mid-season, with that time change. It’s a long way to go to play two games in 10 days,” said Lowry.
And there’s the rub. Winnipeg doesn’t return to game action until Friday night at Bell MTS Place when the high-octane Colorado Avalanche come to town. The Jets are trying to find a balance between getting rest and not gathering rust. They’ll take a full day off Monday, then return for practices Tuesday through Thursday.
“It was completely different than any road trip. Half the days were spent sleeping, half the nights were spent watching shows on Netflix. Guys were messed up the entire time, I think their team (Florida) was, too. I think that’s kind of the frustrating part doing it in the middle of the season, kind of throwing a wrench in everyone’s routine,” captain Blake Wheeler said Sunday.
Jets forward Patrik Laine likely benefited the most from the trip to his homeland, scoring four goals in the two games while also dealing with swarms of media, along with commitments to family and friends.
“I didn’t even get a day off, so thanks guys,” he said, tongue-in-cheek, as a much smaller press corps greeted him Sunday.
“It was just fun and exciting to go there. Now I feel confident and it’s fun to be back here.”
Winnipeg will have a more compressed schedule than many other teams because of the big gaps required for the Helsinki trip. That can be a difference-maker in the ultra competitive Central Division, which is looking to be as tough as ever this season.
“You look at our schedule the rest of the way and it’s kind of jam-packed. You go over there and you play two games and you have five days both sides basically. You’ve got to make those games up somewhere else,” said Lowry.
Despite the potential drawbacks, Jets coach Paul Maurice hopes there are other intangibles that will ultimately benefit his club .
“It was truly a break in the normal NHL routine. So there’s a real positive. I would like to think there would be more than comes from it down the road, from your team being a little closer together, and you’d see that benefit further down the road,” said Maurice.
“It’s a quiet day today. Not sure what time it is. Got the work we wanted to do, so that was good.”
Getting Laine back on track, if that’s indeed what’s happened, will also prove valuable.
“I’m happy for him. He was carrying it, there’s no doubt about it. He’s always hard on himself when he’s not scoring. He seemed to struggle a lot going into that series. So he put up four and he’s back, even in practice he looks like he’s back shooting and feeling good about himself,” said Maurice.
Wheeler, who is notorious for driving the pace in practices, said the key will be to ramp things up as this week progresses.
“I guess we’ll see how it goes. We’re going to have to have some intensity in our practices. We played on Friday and seven days in between games is kind of a long stretch. So we’re going to be adjusting our clocks and adjusting ourselves and try to have some quality work so that when the puck drops Friday hopefully we’ll be ready to go,” said Wheeler.
Maurice said they’ll try and do some things this week similar to how they handled breaks in their schedule during playoff rounds last spring.
“We’ll take a look at the parts of the game we’re working on right now, some defensive concepts that we’re trying to get better at. And then use each of the days for a piece of your game. The challenge is going to be getting up to speed,” said Maurice.
“It’s not even kind of a rest thing. It’s when you have a big block and such a change in your schedule and getting yourself right back up to pace. And it’s going to be critical because Colorado’s got an awful lot of speed, so does New Jersey (who are here Sunday), so that’ll be the challenge.”
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.