WINNIPEG – Five games.
That’s it. That’s all.
“This is our season,” Bryan Little said. “A miniature, five-game season.”
Pressure? Panic? Hardly. The Winnipeg Jets had a business-like approach to Thursday’s practice at MTS Centre.
So in other words, the mentality hasn’t changed: One game at a time, as the old saying goes, until the schedule runs dry.
The Jets are two points up on the Los Angeles Kings for the second of two wild-card spots. LA has one game in hand, meaning that a win tonight over the Edmonton Oilers would bump the Jets into the unenviable position below the cut line. However, due to the fact that the Jets (90 points) play the Calgary Flames (91) on the final day of the regular season, the team is still in control of its own destiny.
Just win, baby.
“We’ve played better in our last two games than we did in the entire five-game stretch that we won, without a doubt,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “That third goal from the Rangers [Tuesday night] – that was their 10th scoring chance. … That’s as low a number as we’ve given up in a long, long stretch of time.
“The negative emotion and frustration of losing a couple games, you want to leave that. We’ve dealt with some areas that we need to tighten up and get better at, and some things that we did well and we can expand on, we want to keep in our game. We’ll do that over the next two days and away
The Jets are back in action on Saturday afternoon (2:00pm, TSN3) when they close out a four-game home stand against the Vancouver Canucks.
The team is still awaiting word on whether or not all-star defenceman Dustin Byfuglien will be available to dress.
Byfuglien had a telephone hearing earlier today with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for a cross check on New York Rangers forward JT Miller in Tuesday’s game at MTS Centre. The unpenalized play could result in a suspension.
Update: Byfuglien has been suspended for four games. He is eligible to return for the regular-season finale on Apr. 11 vs. Calgary.
“Knowing Buff, he’s a really good guy and I don’t think he would ever go out there and intentionally try to hurt someone,” Little said. “He’ll take what’s given to him and we’ll have to move on. You never like to see a play like that happen, but I’m sure Buff had better intentions than to get
him in the neck.”
“I’ll take you through my thoughts on it when the decision is handed down,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said.
“This guy doesn’t play across the line very often. He plays hard and he’s physical, but quite often the hits that Buff dishes out – he has the puck an awful lot, and when guys try to finish their checks, they end up on their butts, so it looks like he’s hunting them down. He hasn’t been in a tremendous number of fights in his career because he doesn’t cross the line very often and because nobody’s lining up to fight a guy that big. If you’re the kind of player that’s constantly crossing the line,
you have a lot of fighting majors on your scorecard and he doesn’t.”
If Byfuglien is ineligible to compete Saturday, Jay Harrison will draw back into the lineup alongside Adam Pardy. “(Harrison) covers a lot of ice and can get in close plays quickly, which helps the
style of game that we want to play,” Maurice said.
Fortunately for the Jets, they’ve been forced to adapt to the absence of key ingredients for much of the year.
No. 33 recently returned from an upper-body injury that forced him to miss more than three weeks of action. The Jets – resilient as ever – won five in a row and six of nine overall, preserving their
grip on a Western Conference playoff spot.
“That’s one thing we’re used to,” Little said of the injuries and “playing well” in spite of them. “That’s what we’re going to have to do again now.”
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com