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Olympic spot 'surreal' for Jets' Wheeler

by Sean Farrell

Blake Wheeler had more than a safe landing in Ottawa to celebrate Wednesday.

When the Winnipeg Jets arrived at their hotel in Canada's capital, Wheeler got a text message from his wife that he had made the United States Olympic team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"It's kind of surreal, to be honest," Wheeler said Thursday. "Just playing in the NHL was kind of above and beyond dreams that I had growing up. It was pretty special for myself and for my wife and my family, so it was a pretty big day."

Wheeler has 15 goals and 16 assists in 42 games.

"I think it's great," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "You always want your players to compete at that level. I think Blake certainly adds a lot. He has some international experience and he has some tremendous speed and skill, so I think it's well-deserved."

Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was another notable omission from the American team.

"It's nothing you can control," Byfuglien said. "All we can do is go out here and work every day and play our game. The decision was made and all we can do is go out and make the best of it."

Byfuglien has seven goals and 22 assists in 42 games.

"Dustin's been a good player for us," Noel said. "Dustin's been a guy that for us has had a good year. He's played very consistent. He's made some strides in the way we wanted him to play and we were hoping that it would be enough to get him an opportunity there.

"The one thing that he does bring to the table that others may not is that he can play forward and defense, and when you have a restricted roster that gives you an opportunity to maybe move him up on the power play if you want or back, but that's a decision that they have to make and I don't know all the things that go into it. But he's been terrific for us."

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