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Maurice plays up Jets' underdog status against Ducks

by Curtis Zupke /

ANAHEIM -- The Winnipeg Jets arrived here with considerable excitement after clinching their first Stanley Cup Playoff berth since the franchise moved to Winnipeg in 2011

They also arrived as underdogs in their Western Conference First Round series against the Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks, and Jets coach Paul Maurice knows that.

"The standings are a fact. We have confidence in our team. They finished first; we finished eighth," he said. "The puck is gonna drop, when that time comes, nobody's got a media guide with them; where you finished doesn't matter. The facts are what they are; we are the underdog, but we have confidence in our game, and they have confidence in theirs."

Maurice doesn't think it matters that Winnipeg played meaningful games down the stretch while Anaheim had a comfortable lead atop the Pacific Division since the All-Star break.

"With so much playoff experience in the other room, and you walk down the hallway and you look at the Pacific Division championships [from] '13, '14 and '15," Maurice said. "That means that they've won their division, so they've played an awful lot of games where maybe there wasn't quite as much heat on the result, and still you look and there's a picture of the Stanley Cup on that wall too, so they've found a way to get past that. For us, we've had to play well to get here."

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau was asked if Maurice saying the Jets are underdogs is gamesmanship.

"What do you think?" Boudreau said. "Of course it is. It's gamesmanship."

Much of the chatter surrounding the best-of-7 series involves Winnipeg's heavy style, but Boudreau feels that's a two-way street.

"I think teams classify us as a heavy team as well," he said.

Maurice said the teams' styles pique the curiosity.

"The first 10 minutes [Thursday] night are going to be very interesting," Maurice said.

Maurice's media session circled back to the excitement in Winnipeg, a city that went 13 seasons without an NHL team after the original Jets moved to Arizona in 1996.

"It's a little bit like, for me, being the teacher in school and you've got their kids," Maurice said. "This is their team. So the kids are getting good marks right now, and they're the parents coming up and they're so stinking happy. But never lose sight of the fact that's it's their team. So there's an ownership beyond that. There's a parental caring about this team in Winnipeg that's really special. It's special to be around."

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