Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine doesn’t see himself playing at his usual All-Star level if the 2019-20 season resumes.
“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,” Laine told reporters Friday. “It’s always a struggle to come back after a long period when you haven’t skated.”
Laine said he doesn’t have an opinion on the reported 24-team Stanley Cup playoff format. If it’s approved, the bracket would peg the Jets against the Calgary Flames in the first round with the winner facing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
“I don’t really care, personally,” the Jets winger said from his home in Tampere, Finland. “I just want to play and I can do whatever format they decide. It’s still just hockey, but I don’t mind the format. It’s not an issue for me.”
The NHL is reportedly zeroing in on two to four “hub cities” to complete the season, with Las Vegas, Minnesota, Edmonton and Vancouver seen as the frontrunners. Some players voiced opposition to the idea of being quarantined away from their families for multiple months should their team have a deep playoff run.
For Laine, it would be business as usual.
“I think I have to bring my computer so that I can play video games,” Laine said. “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.”
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The 22-year-old was on pace to have the best season of his young career before the season was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 68 games, Laine posted 63 points — including a career-high 35 assists. He said it was his most complete season yet.
“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,” Laine reflected. “But yeah, the all-around game was good this year. I kind of got some more consistency out of my game. It was a good year. Too bad we had to stop the season.”
This season, Laine has been on the second line with center Cody Eakin and winger Nikolaj Ehlers as Winnipeg’s top-line consisted of Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. He admits to having to continue to improve all areas of his game to be a top-line forward.
“I think it’s just as a producer and hopefully a first-line player. Obviously getting more points is one and just be even better in my all-around game, which improved a lot this year,” Laine said. “But there’s always lots of room to improve. Maybe some PK in the future, who knows. But yeah, just more ice time, more responsibilities and just better all-around.”
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