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Maurice says he expects Jets to improve at home as team continues to grow

12/01/2014 05:43 EST | Updated 01/31/2015 05:59 EST
WINNIPEG - Maybe head coach Paul Maurice should consider having the Winnipeg Jets stay in a hotel the night before a home game.

The Jets have twice as many wins on the road (8-4-3) than they do at home (4-5-1). Maurice has some theories as to why, but they don't involve comfy hotel beds or less distractions away from the MTS Centre.

For Maurice, it's more about the team's growth and the quality of the opposition.

"The block of time when we started to play well was probably about the seven- or eight-game mark and yet we had (already) played in four or five home games," Maurice said after Monday's practice.

"We weren't playing the way we're playing now when we got out on the road."

He also noted that several home games were against playoff-calibre teams.

"Possibly the best game we played was against Detroit (Nov. 20 at home) and we lost (4-3)," he said.

"We like playing here. We'd rather play 82 at home."

But it's also good to have those road wins in the bank, he added. Winnipeg (12-9-4) was sitting in fourth place in the Central Division Monday morning.

The Jets have plenty of chances to change their home-road imbalance in December, when nine of their 13 games will be played at MTS Centre.

They begin a three-game homestand Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers, who were on a nine-game losing skid heading into a home game Monday night versus Arizona.

Maurice must have run his road theories by his players because captain Andrew Ladd repeated the possible reasons for the disparity, including highlighting the good game they played against Detroit.

"I'm not worried about it," Ladd said. "I think it's something (that) now we're at a point where we're really comfortable with our game, period, whether we're playing at home or on the road."

Ladd practised on a line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele replacing injured centre Bryan Little, but Maurice had a good-news update.

Little and injured defenceman Toby Enstrom will try to practise Tuesday, and if they feel good they should get the green light to return to the lineup.

Little took a puck to the knee in last Friday's 2-1 overtime loss to Boston. Enstrom missed Winnipeg's successful three-game road trip (2-0-1) with a lower-body injury and defenceman Grant Clitsome filled his spot in a pairing with Zach Bogosian.

Ladd, Wheeler and Little have eight goals apiece, with Ladd and Wheeler adding eight assists each and Little seven.

"He plays every situation for us," Wheeler said of Little. "You really can't even explain how much he means to our group. It'll take a lot of guys stepping up if he misses time. We hope he doesn't."

The Jets begin a stretch Wednesday that has them playing every second day through Dec. 13.

Maurice's plan for his goaltenders might include using both starter Ondrej Pavelec (8-8-2) and Michael Hutchinson (4-1-2).

"Just make sure neither one of them is out of the net more than seven games, for the most part," Maurice said when asked about his goalie philosophy.

Hutchinson's goals against average of 1.56 and save percentage of .947 both top the NHL. He's started six games and played in eight.

Maurice said Hutchinson has created his own success. The rookie has a competitive work ethic in practice, is square on the puck during games and doesn't let a lot of rebounds get away from him.

"He has the ability to fight and find pucks in traffic, and then he's just played that way all the way through," Maurice said.

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