– Face to face with the retches of adversity, the Winnipeg Jets won’t back down.
Never have. Never will.
As Blake Wheeler said following a 6-3 loss to the Dallas Stars last night: “We have to get through this together.”
The Jets, who have long prided themselves on rising to the challenge, are winless in four and have the 9-3-3 Nashville Predators up next, but their confidence isn’t shaken.
And why would it be? They’ve been here before.
“I’ve been in the league long enough where I’ve seen this before,” Bryan Little said following Friday’s practice at Vanderbilt University. “There’s no easy way out of it. We’ve got to put our work boots on and it starts here in practice. We’re trying to get the tempo up and be quicker. There’s not much
you can do except work hard.
“It’s early in the season still, but with the way our division is, and the calibre of teams [we’re playing], we need to start playing with more urgency. We can’t afford to be in a position where we’re chasing to put ourselves in a good spot for the rest of the year.”
Practice lasted approximately 45 minutes and was largely spent on special teams as the Jets look to correct a 1-for-23 stretch with the man advantage.
The Predators are coming off a shootout loss Thursday to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but have been dominant at home, losing only once in regulation time so far this season.
“They’re another tough western team for us to play,” Little said. “Nothing’s easy about this road trip, and we’ve got to realize that. We can’t just show up to the rink and expect good things to happen. We’ve got to work for it. We’ve got to put everything behind us and go to work again.”
Mathieu Perreault, who played a season-high 19 minutes in Thursday’s loss to the Stars, agreed, adding that even the best teams endure slumps at one point or another.
“We’ve got to put our head down, get to work and grind it out,” he said. “It’s up to us in the room to get us out of it.
“We always have a positive group here, and that’s how (Head Coach) Paul (Maurice) works.”
The Jets are looking to carry over a strong second half in Dallas, where they outshot the Stars 23-12 in the final 28-and-a-half minutes. Tyler Myers tied the game early in the third period, but a late power marker from Jamie Benn put the Stars up for good.
“We had stretches in the third period where we were trying to push, but we can’t keep putting ourselves in that position where we're playing from behind,” Little said. “We’ve got to come out of the gates that way, with that urgency right from the start. We’re still trying to figure that out. It’s a process, but we need to find a way right now.”
Little has eight goals and 17 points in 17 games this season. Alongside Wheeler and Andrew Ladd, his line will once again be counted upon to produce tomorrow against a Predators team that has shown a bit of everything through 15 games.
“You’ve got a real good team that’s on a run,” Maurice said of the Preds, who are 5-2-3 in their last 10. “They can push the offence, too, when they’re feeling good. That’s what we’re going to get. We’ve got to play our game one way right now. We’ve got to get it tightened up. We’re 10th in offence and we’re 27th in defence, so there’s no secret what’s going on here.
“We were real good for a long stretch (in Dallas). We just need more of it.”
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com