WINNIPEG – What’s done is done.
At 21-24-3, the Winnipeg Jets have long, steep climb ahead of them, but there’s no sense dwelling on the past. It’s time to look forward, “suck it up” and head into the weeklong NHL All-Star Break with some positive energy to build around.
“It’s an exciting opportunity tomorrow to put the past in the past and hopefully kick this stretch run off on the right note,” Wheeler, the Jets’ leading scorer, said as more than a dozen reporters
hovered around his locker post-practice.
The Jets have 34 games left and are nine points out of a playoff spot, but they were in brighter spirits Monday following two good days of practice. Tomorrow, they’ll look to put the brakes on a three-game skid and begin crawling their way back into the wild-race race.
Original Jet Shane Doan and the Arizona Coyotes stand in the way.
“Our problem has never been about whether we work hard enough,” Wheeler said of the struggle this season. "Guys work extremely hard in our room. We have guys that care a lot in our room. It’s been a frustrating year from a results standpoint, so you’ve got to understand that we’re human beings, we have feelings and when things have gone the way they’ve gone for us this year, it’s really tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"I think we’ve done a better job of bringing that energy into our locker room lately. The issue isn’t about whether we work hard or we care; it’s just finding that little bit extra to get us over the hump so those results start coming a little more consistently.”
Wheeler made reference to the sweaty slog they had Sunday, which lasted upwards of an hour, finishing with a gruelling ‘conditioning’ skate that saw the players line up at opposite ends and
take turns – half at a time – shredding the rink.
“The things I care about are playing with guys that work hard – we check that box every day – and guys that care. We check that box as well,” Wheeler said. “The wins and losses, I would love to be on a better side of it, but we can’t dwell on the past. We want to get off to a better start tomorrow;
start stringing some wins together and see what happens in the second half.”
Andrew Ladd is playing out the final year of a five-year, $4.4M contract, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent on Jul. 1 if he is not signed before then.
Following practice, the recently turned 30-year-old was asked about the status of contract talks between his agents and Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.
“I don’t think anything’s changed either way,” Ladd said. “If you ask both sides, both sides would have hoped to have had something done by now. But that’s part of the business. It’s something
you deal with and keep working at it.”
Ladd is one of only nine players (Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Chris Thorburn, Mark Stuart, Ondrej Pavelec and Alexander Burmistrov) that remain with the
organization after the move from Atlanta five years ago.
Asked if he’d like to remain in Winnipeg long term, the captain didn’t hesitate: “Yep.”
“It’s hard for me to see [playing for another team],” he said, referencing the fast-approaching Feb. 29 trade deadline, “but at the same time I’ve been around long enough to see that anything can happen and things can change quickly.”
Ladd has 10 goals and 27 points in all 48 games this season. He set a new career high with 62 points (24G, 38A) last year, leading the Jets to their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
NO GO FOR PERREAULT
Mathieu Perreault suffered a lower-body injury in Saturday’s loss to the New Jersey Devils. He will not play tomorrow vs. Arizona, but the Jets are hopeful he’ll be back soon after the All-Star Break.
“We don’t have him as a player tomorrow but his tests turned out to be fairly positive,” Maurice said.
LITTLE LEAVES PRACTICE
Bryan Little (undisclosed) left practice after taking just a few turns on the ice today at MTS Centre.
“If he loosens up he’s fine for tomorrow, if not, we’ll see,” Maurice said.
Patrice Cormier took Little’s spot at centre between Ladd and Drew Stafford. The rest of the lines remained intact, with Mark Scheifele (lower body) confirmed for tomorrow after missing seven games.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com