WINNIPEG - After pulling their best home game this season out of the hat, the Winnipeg Jets have to do it again Thursday against the New York Rangers to stay in the playoff hunt.
"I think you can't take your foot off the pedal, that's the first thing, we don't want to get back to mediocrity," coach Claude Noel said Wednesday.
"I think last night we were proud of the way we played and that's the way we need to continue to play."
The Jets got down and dirty with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday and came out on top with a 5-2 win, probably their most convincing this season ? certainly their most convincing at home. They have the worst home record in the Eastern Conference at 5-6-0.
The win brought them into an eighth-place tie with New York at 28 points. Another win Thursday would help them vault over the Rangers and take sole possession of the eighth and final spot above that line that means either playoff contention or an early golf season.
Of course, New York also wants the same thing, particularly after a lacklustre effort Tuesday night in Buffalo where they bowed 3-1 to the Sabres and were slammed by coach John Tortorella.
The Jets said they knew the Leafs like physical hockey and they came out ready to deliver their own brand.
"I think the physicality of our game and the intensity really led to a solid 60-minute game," said Noel.
"I think that's going to be one of the key things here at home."
Part of that physicality came from an early first-period fight between Toronto's Colton Orr and Winnipeg's Chris Thorburn.
"If you feel the time's right, then you've got to do it," Thorburn said after practice Wednesday.
With newly acquired tough guy Anthony Peluso out with an injury (possibly a broken hand from a fight with Washington's Aaron Volpatti March 2) the job now falls in Thorburn's lap.
Noel says Thorburn can handle it, although he certainly isn't the biggest or meanest scrapper in the league.
"I don't think Chris is a heavyweight but he's willing to do the things necessary for his teammates," he said.
"That's a tough task, against guys who are bigger or stronger or better fighters possibly than you. . . I think he's very well respected from his teammates."
Tuesday's win cost the Jets centre Jim Slater, perhaps for an extended period.
Noel said Slater will be assessed on a week-to-week basis for "an upper body injury" he sustained in the third period. He wouldn't confirm whether Slater had
"Jim does a lot of things. Obviously he kills five-on-threes and kills penalties. He's a reliable faceoff guy. You can put him in any situation in any position up front and (he) does a really solid job so he's a guy that will be missed."
The team called up Patrice Cormier from the St. John's IceCaps Wednesday.