They are on one of those runs players dream about. The hockey gods are looking down and smiling on them, their hard work is being rewarded and the wins keep piling up at a critical stretch of the season.
And, in what is another example of how the dramatic Winnipeg Jets’ turnaround has been since the life-support days of mid-January, those who pull on the club’s colours every day are craving more and more of the same. In fact, they want to push the bar up even higher.
"We know that we can beat anybody when we play well," said Jets’ defenceman Mark Stuart Sunday, one day after his squad improved to 30-26-6 with a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators. "There’s some things that we’d like to do better from the last two games, but we were able to get the wins and that’s the most-important thing right now, getting those two points.
"We have two days here (Sunday and Monday) to work on some things, talk about some things, because we think the bar is a little bit higher right now. We know the good things we’ve done, I’m not taking anything away from that. But we know we can always push and push.
"It’s just going to get harder and harder here down the stretch so we’re going to have to continue to push and try to take it to that next level. I mean, playoff hockey is a whole new level and we need to get there now because this is our playoffs here now, this next 20 (games)."
The Jets are now 11-3-1 since Paul Maurice took over and remain one of the hottest teams in the NHL over the last month or so. They face the New York Islanders Tuesday at MTS Centre (7 p.m.; TSN-Jets/TSN 1290), part of a stretch that will see them play eight of their next 10 at home.
"Since Paul’s been here we’re 11-3-1… that’s got to be if not the hottest team in the NHL it’s got to be up there," said Keaton Ellerby. "We’re making some noise. It’ just been a great experience so far. It’s fun to win, so having this opportunity to be in this playoff hunt… but we can still get better."
That was a common refrain in the Jets’ dressing room Sunday: a recognition that the two post-Olympic break wins over Phoenix and Nashville weren’t without their flaws and that now isn’t the time to get fat and sassy with the recent success.
"We can better and we absolutely have to approach where we are as that," said Maurice.
"Listen, our compete has been good. But that has to absolutely be our attitude every day that we come to the rink, that’s there’s a way we can get better. I truly believe this team can play a better game of hockey. It’s not from a lack of desire. If you’re asking what’s the one asset we’ve brought to the table every night, it’s we’ve got a good bunch of really competitive guys. The mistakes that we’ve made, we’ve blocked a shot or got a great save or worked really hard.
"But in terms of being a pretty efficient functioning team, we’ve got lots of room to get better with that and that takes time. So what you’re hoping for is your compete and your drive can carry you by that time until you can get to the team that you can say played a really efficient game. We can better there."
SICK BAY UPDATE
Jets winger James Wright, who left Saturday’s win over Nashville with an apparent leg/knee injury, was being evaluated on Sunday and his status is iffy.
"He’s getting checked out as we speak," said Maurice. "I think there’s going to be an injury there… I don’t know how long it is so we’ll just wait until we get the full and clean report. I would list him as very doubtful."
The Jets do have three extra forwards in Matt Halischuk, Eric Tangradi and Anthony Peluso.
Devin Setoguchi (flu) and Toby Enstrom (maintenance) did not skate Sunday.