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Jets to play first playoff game since 2007 vs. Ducks

by Mitchell Clinton (@MClinton007) / Winnipeg Jets


ANAHEIM, California -- Chris Thorburn has been waiting a long time for tonight.

The veteran forward has played 603 regular season games, but none in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But tonight, that changes.

“I think if I would have made it every year it would still be as great. You train in the summer, and work all year for a chance to play for the Stanley Cup and make the playoffs,” he said. “It's exciting, but I don't want to get too awe struck but at the same time, just go out there and play hockey. That's what it really comes down to. It's hockey. I've been doing that my whole life, we've all been doing that, so just don't make it any harder than it has to be.

Coach Paul Maurice likes to see that excitement from Thorburn leading into game one of the Western Conference quarter final.

“That's what this is all about. A year of grinding, working, sweating, and competing to get to this. There's nothing but good things that happen for us in this game,” Maurice said after today’s morning skate. “There's going to be adversity and challenges. Those are all learning situations and we will have, guaranteed, more experience when we're done this playoff series and run than when we started.”

There are other veterans on the Jets roster, along with Thorburn, who have yet to see post season play. Both Bryan Little and Toby Enstrom have played over 500 games in the National Hockey League without participating in the playoffs. Along with them, the young faces of Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, and Adam Lowry will also be seeing their first playoff game tonight.

“Just about everybody that got here, from both teams, but every young player, has been on successful teams,” Maurice said. “The further down you go, the more dominant they become as the one player that drives that success, so they've all had that kind of experience.”

They sure have. Scheifele and Trouba played at the IIHF World Hockey Championships as well as the World Junior Championships, while Adam Lowry helped the St. John’s IceCaps to the Calder Cup final series last season. Scheifele says getting energized for tonight’s game won’t be a problem.

“Obviously as the young guy you're pretty amped up to get in your first NHL playoffs,” he said. “Obviously there are going to be nerves, but you have to take it in stride. It's going to be a fast game out there, the guys who adapt the quickest will be successful.”

In three games against Anaheim this season, the Jets are 0-1-2. But Scheifele feels there are lessons to be learned in overtime and shootout losses like the ones the Jets have had against the Ducks.

“Sometimes you learn the most from losing tight games like that. I think our team has done a great job dealing with adversity throughout the whole year,” said Scheifele, who finished the regular season with 49 points. “Guys getting injured, tough losses, but we always seem to bounce back. I think that just shows the character we have in this room, we just want to continue that.”

There could be more adversity tonight. Mathieu Perreault is still a game time decision with a lower-body injury he suffered against the Avalanche in the 81st game of the season. He didn’t participate in the full morning skate, but for the second straight day, came out at the end of the session to test his injury. Andrew Ladd also didn’t skate, but Maurice expects him in the line-up.

If Perreault doesn’t play, the line combinations may look similar to what they looked like in the morning skate.

Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Michael Frolik
Drew Stafford-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler
Lee Stempniak-Adam Lowry-Jiri Tlusty
Chris Thorburn-Jim Slater-Matt Halischuk

Mark Stuart-Jacob Trouba
Tyler Myers-Toby Enstrom
Dustin Byfuglien-Ben Chiarot.

Ondrej Pavelec is expected to get the start in goal when the puck drops at 9:30 pm central time. Pavelec is another member of the Jets without any NHL playoff experience, but can draw on World Championship success. Maurice says regardless of how much experience is on either roster, each season brings new challenges for every roster. He makes sure none of his players shy away from facing those challenges.

“You have to get through that gate. You have to pass through. We talk about meeting those challenges, and not trying to avoid any of it,” he said. “The nervousness, the excitement, the inexperience. Deal directly with it. It's going to be great to watch.”

-- Mitchell Clinton,
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