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Jets in tough spot after 5-3 loss to Flames

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CALGARY — The hot, angry post-game glare of the Winnipeg Jets melted any chance of a sliver lining Friday night.

A 5-3 loss to the Calgary Flames erased any chance — if there was one — of anything good coming out of the Jets’ two-game Western Canada road trip.

For starters, Jets head coach Claude Noel reacted sarcastically to a question about how disappointed he was with the trip.

"How would you like me to answer that?" Noel spat. "Do you want me to say medium, large? How would you like me to say that? How disappointed are you? Is there a level there? Is it a 10 out of 10? Would you like to say six out of 10? I mean, how disappointed do you need to be?"

That was the long way to say "plenty."

The back-to-back losses in Vancouver and Calgary leave the Jets in an uncomfortable position. They started the night in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and stayed there, stuck at 72 points.

The eighth-place Washington Capitals also have 72 but by the time the Jets play again, next Wednesday at home to Dallas, they are very likely to be in worse shape. The playoff line will be higher and more teams might catch up.

"We’re going to be watching and hoping they lose," said Jets centre Jim Slater. "We’re going to have to have a little bit of help, but we still play our own division quite a bit down the stretch here.

"We’ll keep battling. With the struggles we’ve had, we’re still right there with it."

Winnipeg is now 32-29-8, with a terrible road record of 11-19-4 that could well cost it a shot at the post-season. Just 13 games are left, seven on the road.

"We’re not doing anything to help it," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "I thought we had chances tonight. We put a lot of pucks on net (45). I thought we battled and only had three lines of forwards. But we just couldn’t get enough pucks past (Miikka Kiprusoff)."

Combined with a dreadful night on the penalty kill — the Flames went three for three and got two in the first seven minutes to help them to a 3-0 lead — it was mostly bad news for the visitors.

"They were a little bit fortunate; two went off our player right on their tape," Noel said. "They converted, made the plays, but you started off down 2-0.

"You made it 3-2 and then the game’s out there but then as the game went on, we ran out of energy."

That led to another black mark on the Jets’ record — specifically that they’ve been failures on the second night of back-to-back games this season. They have dropped 10 of 11 instances on the second night, nine of them on the road.

Before they went down 3-0 in the first period, the Jets may well have been off balance.

Star defenceman Dustin Byfuglien didn’t take the warm-up but then was in the lineup.

"We had a lower-body situation we were trying to get resolved," Noel explained. "It took longer than we anticipated. Because of the uncertainty, we decided to dress seven Ds, but you’ve got to give credit to Buff. He ended up playing 27 minutes. He gave us what he had in a situation that wasn’t completely great."

The game was similar to Thursday’s in Vancouver in the fan department, as well as the result.

A healthy number of Jets fans piled into the Scotiabank Saddledome, in both old and new jerseys, and made their presence known throughout the night.

NOTES: The Flames seem interested in a rivalry, based on their first-period scoreboard video. To the tune of Welcome Back, they showed a long succession of Flames goals against the original Jets, as well as fights. The low-brow mocking was a sharp contrast to the classy announcements, videos and general reception the Jets have received in other Canadian cities, particularly Toronto and Thursday in Vancouver.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Game preview:

CALGARY — Each side has its urgent issues of trying to gain points to make the Stanley Cup playoffs but word on the street here today is that tonight’s NHL game at the Scotiabank Saddledome may once again turn into a story about the reach of Winnipeg Jets fans.

Like Thursday in Vancouver, thousands of Jets fans are expected to turn up and cheer for the relocated NHL in its return game to Calgary.

“The support seems to be everywhere,” Jets coach Claude Noel said this morning. “We just have to visualize that we’re at home.”

The Jets, coming off a 5-1-2 homestand, dropped a 3-2 decision to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, leaving them in ninth spot in the Eastern Conference standings to start the day.

“We need to be a lot better for the whole 60 minutes,” Noel said. “We played in spurts in that game in Vancouver, didn’t play our A game. The disappointing thing was that we weren’t able to close it out. We got up 2-1 and had a chance to win it and weren’t able to close it out.”

The Flames, who are also at 72 points and three points off the line in the Western Conference race, are ready for the influx of fans cheering for the visitors.

“I’m sure there are still a lot of loyal Winnipeg Jets fans, a lot of people here who are from Manitoba,” Flames coach Brent Sutter said this morning. “It’s a Canadian team and it’s like that wherever you go throughout the country.”

After tonight, the Jets will have 13 games left, seven on the road. They return home for three games next week, starting Wednesday against Dallas.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Friday, March 9, 2012 at 2:00 PM CST: Adds live blog.

8:20 PM: Adds first goal

8:26 PM: Adds second goal

8:38 PM: Adds third goal

8:47 PM: Adds Jets' goal

9:35 PM: Adds Flames' fourth goal

9:52 PM: End of second period

10:28 PM: Adds Flames' fifth goal

10:34 PM: Adds Jets' third goal

10:50 PM: Game-over story

12:21 AM: Adds full game story

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