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Jets comment on playoff picture, look ahead to Lightning

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

TAMPA, Florida – For the first time since Nov. 25, the Winnipeg Jets woke up on the outside looking in when it comes to the Western Conference playoff picture.

The Los Angeles Kings moved one point up on the Jets for the second of two wild-card spots with a 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night.

“It’s not the place we want to be, but at the same time we realize there’s lots of hockey to be played and we’re still in a good spot,” Jets captain Andrew Ladd said. “At this time of year, it’s all about moving on. The most important thing after a couple of losses is to get back in the win column
and get a good feeling back in that room.

“We’ve dealt with everything this season. There’s not a belief in that room that we can’t overcome whatever’s thrown our way. It’s all about getting back in the saddle tomorrow night and getting a win. … Most guys know and keep a pretty good handle on what’s going on with the standings.”

The Jets – who are currently 1-2-0 on this four-game road trip – are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. The trip wraps up tomorrow night (6:00pm CT, Sportsnet) at Amalie Arena, where Steven Stamkos and the Atlantic Division-contending Tampa Bay Lightning will look bounce
back after a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins.

“You’re so much more focused on where you are in terms of games and in the standings [at this time of the year],” Head Coach Paul Maurice said after a light practice in downtown Tampa. “All the way down the stretch for all these teams, there are going to be wins and losses and whoever manages them the best has a chance. We don’t spend too much time worrying about it or fretting about it. I think we’ve had a good amount of urgency around our room for quite some time.”

Nine players and one goaltender (Ondrej Pavelec) took part in this afternoon’s practice, while the others had an off-ice workout. Bryan Little did skate, but will not play tomorrow.

There was no update on the condition of Tyler Myers, who suffered an upper-body injury early in the second period of last night’s game in Sunrise. In an effort to disrupt a shorthanded breakaway, Myers crashed heavily into the end boards after clipping the goalpost en route. The 6-foot-8 defenceman made it back to the bench under his own power, but did not see the ice
for the rest of the night.

Keaton Ellerby has been recalled from the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps on an emergency basis as a “precaution,” in case Myers is unable to play.

“We’ll see how he is in the morning,” Maurice said.

Ellerby has three goals, 13 assists and 32 penalty minutes in 41 games with the IceCaps this season.

“It’s another piece of adversity that we’re going to have to overcome,” Ladd said.

“We’ve got to have guys come in and step up. It’s an opportunity for others if we find out (Myers) can’t go. At this point we’re hoping for good news.”

In other news around the rink, Matt Halischuk has been activated off IR and could play tomorrow night.

"He was playing well when he went down," Maurice said. "We’ll look at the idea of getting some fresh legs in the lineup on a long trip like this. We miss that. If he’s ready to go and gets through the skate, then he’ll have something to add."

Halischuk has not played since Jan. 29 at Philadelphia.


On Thursday True North Sports & Entertainment announced that the American Hockey League affiliate of the Jets would move from St. John’s, NL, to Winnipeg for the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign.

The AHL club had been playing in St. John’s as the IceCaps – formerly the Manitoba Moose – since 2011.

The team, which does not yet have a name, will play at MTS Centre, which is awfully beneficial for the watchful eyes of the parent club.

“There are a lot of things that are made a whole lot easier,” Maurice said. “Travel alone – the number of times you’ll want to get a young player in, especially, for a practice but can’t. There were some real difficult challenges there (with the team in St. John’s). It’s an easier lifestyle for the players as well. A lot of guys go up and down, so there’s less wear and tear on them. … Not to mention a better familiarity with the team in town. Games are on TV and you can watch them on your off days to
get a better sense of what’s going on.

“Not getting glimpses over two or three games, but to getting to watch a big bulk of the home games, you can really get a sense of where a player’s at.”

After spending three years with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization (two with the Leafs and one with the club’s AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies), Maurice knows better than most that “there’s a lot of good in it.”

“A guy gets called up – you grab your bag, slide across the road and you’re there,” he said. “We’re responsible for making progress with two organizations, so you get a good feel for what your team needs.”

— Ryan Dittrick,

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