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Jets in near-impossible position to reach playoffs

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WINNIPEG — Resignation was in the air today at the MTS Centre, a stark contrast from even two weeks ago when the Winnipeg Jets were in a more relevant position in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

But on the heels of their 6-4 home loss to the Ottawa Senators and four losses in the last five games, the Jets are in a near-impossible position with just six games left.

By the time the eighth-place Washington Capitals and ninth-place Buffalo Sabres are finished playing tonight — both enter the contest with 84 points — the Jets will be eight points out of the final post-season berth.

"Today’s a hard day for the players and the staff, too," Jets coach Claude Noel, his team stuck at 78 points, said in his opening remarks to reporters today at the MTS Centre, where the team held an optional skate. "I got home last night, turn on the TV, and there’s the replay of the game, of our game. Oh. I come in at 8:30 this morning, there’s the replay again. Please. Painful. It’s hard.

"We just finished three in four nights with travel and the emotional roller coaster of the game and the disappointment of the game was really tough. It’s tough to deal with today. The players are tired and spent and fatigued and physically fatigued."

Noel said that giving up will not be an option.

"Tomorrow’s another day," he said. "We’ve got to regroup, do what we have to do. Same with the coaching staff as well. Tomorrow’s another day. The sun comes up and we have to get back to doing what we have to do."

Noel said Monday’s result, after the Jets rallied three times to tie the game, was something other than frustration.

"Probably disappointment would be the better word for me," he said. "It’s tough. The one thing I liked is that our players, their will was good. I didn’t particularly care for how that game went but our will was good, we kept battling to get back in that game.

"But disappointment. You get back and and it’s opportunities lost, that’s what I look at.

"But it’s one game. You can’t wrap yourself around one game and go crashing down. We’re trying to keep things at an even keel. It’s hard. Not too low, not too high, but it’s hard.

"You get involved with the effects of the fans. As they’re going, you’re going. How do you separate yourself from that? It’s not an easy task."

He said he expects his players to perform well against the first-place Rangers here on Wednesday.

"We just have targets," he said. "You’ve got this Rangers game, it’s all we can handle. They have a really good team. Our players have pride. They’ve competed their whole life. I don’t think it’s an issue for me.

"We have to focus. You always have things to play for and there’s always goals. You always can get better. To me there’s no reason to step back. That’s just unacceptable. That’s not what you do when you compete.

"We’re in the business of winning, of playing well, building a better foundation than we have, defending better, continually improving. There’s a whole lot of the and they’re not going away and I’m not going to let them go away."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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