'You just want to play': Winnipeg Jets hold first practice since advancing in NHL playoffs
The Winnipeg Jets took to the ice Sunday for their first practice since Friday's series-clinching win over the Minnesota Wild and ahead of their second round series against the Nashville Predators.
And while the day off — and the luxury of watching their next opponent still sweating it out Sunday night — is appreciated, players seemed anxious to get on with the next round of the playoffs.
"You start to get to the point where you just want to play," said Bryan Little. "I think the biggest advantage … was getting guys rested up and fresh for the next round, but at the same time, you can only practice so much and get ready so much.
"You just, you just want to start playing."
The Jets made it through to the second round of the NHL playoffs Friday with a 5-0 win over the Wild in Winnipeg.
The team will now face off against the Nashville Predators, who beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-0 Sunday night to move on to the second round series with the Jets.
After Sunday's the practice Jets' head coach Paul Maurice told media he'd be watching the game between the Predators and Avalanche closely for "all the standard pre-scout things."
"We've been tracking the next opponent right from the start," he said. "We've got most of the video on both teams done so you're looking for aberrations and certainly looking to enjoy a hockey game."
Jets fans had some good news Sunday as left-winger Nikolaj Ehlers, who was unexpectedly scratched from Friday's game for an undisclosed ailment, was on the ice for the practice, albeit wearing a yellow no-contact jersey.
Ehlers told media Sunday he'd "felt off" after the morning skate before Friday's game, and along with the teams' coaches and medical staff, decided to sit out Game 5.
He said he's feeling better and hopes to be ready to play later this week.
"It's going the right way," he said. "I was skating well out there, I was feeling well, I was pretty much back to my old self, so I feel good."
Maurice said Sunday's practice was about "getting the hands and feet back up to speed."
"We're still mindful of using the rest and the recovery … for anybody that's got minor injuries, but we had a big crew out there today so everybody is feeling pretty good," he said.
"Having a few days that you can keep people off the ice, that you can get a little more treatment, I think it bumps ahead you're ability to get back ahead to full go."
As for the fans who filled Bell MTS Place for last Friday's game, Maurice says they made the most noise he's ever heard during his NHL career.
He nearly smiled when asked what that meant for the team.
"We have a special environment here," he said. "It took about two hours after you got home that you could turn the volume down on your TV just to hear it.
"It had an impact — it's a really intense environment — and it's a huge advantage for us."