Laine keen to hit the ice, despite potential challenges of new playoff format

His hockey skills may admittedly be a bit rusty these days, but Patrik Laine hasn’t lost his dry wit or brutal honesty that makes him one of the unique characters and great interviews in the sport.

The 22-year-old Winnipeg Jets sniper was in fine form Friday morning during a Zoom call with media from his off-season home in Tampere, Finland. He’s currently waiting for word on a possible resumption of the NHL season, which shut down in mid-March owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If I look at myself and think about myself, my game’s probably going to look terrible since I haven’t skated for two months, and it’s always a struggle to come back after a long period when you haven’t skated,” Laine said.

The likely scenario is a 24-team playoff tournament in which the Jets would meet the Calgary Flames in an opening round best-of-five series, likely in early to mid-July. News on that front could come in the next few days.

“I think if there’s a training camp or something like that, I think it’ll be a good playoff run since everybody’s rested and hopefully healthy. I think it would be a great playoff run,” said Laine. “I don’t really care, personally (about the format). I just want to play, and I can do whatever format they decide. It’s just still hockey, but I don’t mind the format. It’s not an issue for me.”

Laine said the prospect of playing in a hub city for an extended period of time, isolated family and friends, will have some challenges for players.

“I think I have to bring my computer so that I can play some video games. I think it will be boring, but if that’s what it requires to play hockey still this summer, that’s fine with me. I don’t mind and I don’t need to go anywhere but my hotel room. So that would be just normal for me on the road. If that’s necessary, I don’t mind it,” he said.

He’s been staying busy by working on his golf game and adding to his tattoo collection, revealing he just got his full arm sleeve finished. And while he hasn’t kept in touch with the majority of his Jets teammates, the one exception is close buddy Nikolaj Ehlers.

“I’ve been sending pics to Nikky from my Lambo (he has a Lamborghini Urus) and he’s been sending pics of his,” he said.

Laine was on pace for a career-high in points, with 28 goals and a career-high 35 assists in 68 regular-season games.

“I took some big steps this year, especially in my all-around game. It was the first time in my career I had more assists than goals, so hopefully, that’s not going to happen again. But yeah, the all-around game was good this year. Kind of get some more consistency out of my game. It was a good year. Too bad we had to stop the season,” he said.

“Everybody kind of stepped up this year. All the young guys, they were getting more ice time and a bigger role this year. Everybody handled it really well and that’s what we need to do and keep doing. As a young guy, I try to step up my game every year and every game. To get more responsibilities and play better. That’s how we, as a team, are going to get success because all of the veteran guys are going to retire at some point. So the young guys are going to have to step up.”

Laine suggested there’s plenty of room to still improve, including perhaps getting some penalty-killing assignments. We think he was joking.

Laine also took a shot at Ehlers as he recalled his first career hat trick, in his rookie season against Toronto, which came on a two-on-one rush in overtime. He was asked if he ever considered passing to Ehlers.

“Absolutely not. I’m always thinking about shooting it, especially with Nikky on the other side. I had to shoot it if we wanted to score.”

Finally, he put to rest any thought of bringing back his gnarly facial hair, which he sported during Winnipeg’s run to the Western Conference final in 2018.

“No. No that was once, just once for me. Once was enough. And it didn’t look good either, so I’m done with the beard,” said Laine.

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre

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.

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