December 10, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
They are behind on points and sporting a nasty black eye. But the Winnipeg Jets vow to go down swinging in their final regular-season game Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens.
And they’ll likely do some heavy-duty praying at the same time.
The Jets, despite losing 5-3 to the Washington Capitals Tuesday night, have not yet been officially eliminated from the NHL playoff picture. They remain in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with a 24-20-3 record for 51 points — one back of the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators, teams with have two and three games remaining on their schedule, respectively.
Winnipeg will need to dispatch the Habs at home Thursday (7 p.m./TSNJets, TSN 1290) and then hope they get some help in order to have their season extended.
The Jets do hold the tiebreaker on both the Sens and Rangers if they were to end up tied in points, having picked up more regulation and overtime wins this season.
"It’s as simple as that: we have to win, it’s a must-win game for us," said centre Nik Antropov after an optional skate Wednesday that featured just five skaters and goaltender Al Montoya. "Everybody knows it in this dressing room. We’re going to come out and make it happen.
"It’s the last game of the season. We have to win and then hope and see what’s happening afterward. You want to control your own destiny, but for us there is one task and that is to win the game tomorrow night."
The Habs have their own issues, having dropped five of their last six games. But they do have their playoff spot secured at least.
"We can only control our last game so that’s where our focus is," said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. "If we don’t come out and play a strong game and give ourselves a chance to win it doesn’t matter. We are guaranteed one game and even if we had nothing to play for in terms of playoffs I think this group has a lot of pride with where we’ve come from. We’re right on the bubble so I still think we feel like we have a lot to play for."
Other bits from Wednesday’s optional skate:
-The players on the ice were Anthony Peluso, Jim Slater, Paul Postma, Jacob Trouba, Zach Redmond and goaltender Al Montoya;
-Head coach Claude Noel said defenceman Zach Bogosian remains ‘day-to-day’ but "I’m not sure he’ll be in the game tomorrow. It’s not quite THAT day. How do you like that?"