Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Big winger's rollin' like an 18-Wheeler

Named NHL's second star with 8 points in four games

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Take a bow, Blake Wheeler.

The NHL named the Winnipeg Jets winger one of its three stars of the week after he led all scorers with eight points (one goal, seven assists) over the last four games, three of them wins. Wheeler was named the second star after Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller, while Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza was the third star.

"He deserves it, he's playing well," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "He's had some big impact on games and he had a big night (Sunday) with four assists. It's nice to see him get some recognition."

Wheeler's four points in Sunday's 5-1 win over Colorado eclipsed a career high. He now has 46 on 11 goals and 35 helpers.

"I really am not wrapped up in the individual statistics thing, man," Wheeler said. "Our whole line's playing really well. When we were put together after the all-star break we made a conscious effort to try and make this thing work, similar to how we did last year in Atlanta. I think we're going really well right now. We're trying to win puck battles and keep things simple and it's turning into some good chances for us and translating into some big goals."

Asked if he is doing anything different -- remember, Wheeler went 18 games without scoring to open the season -- Noel downplayed any dramatic shift in the big winger's approach.

"Not really," Noel said. "I think his game has changed from the early going, but I don't think that's by design. It's maturity. He's enjoying playing, he's enjoying having success."

WORRY WART? Here's Noel on the Jets' recent offensive boom: "We've had a couple games where we've scored some more goals. That's good. That's more fun. But what you have to be careful of is you start thinking you're a five- six-goal team every night. You're always fearful of overconfidence.

"It seems every time I feel good about things, I'm fearful about something else. Now we score goals and I'm fearful we're going to be playing another 8-5 game (like the loss to Pittsburgh on Feb. 11). It's no rest for the wicked."

SICK BAY UPDATE: Defenceman Zach Bogosian has been skating, but has yet to practise with the club and will not be in the lineup against the Flyers.

"It's longer than we figured," Noel said. "It's maintenance stuff and we're just trying to get him through therapy. I'm shooting for Thursday (against Tampa). It depends on how he feels. Every day it seems he's a little bit better."

GOALTENDER ALERT: True North Sports unveiled their new goalie training centre, the MTS IceLab, at the MTS Iceplex on Monday. It features the biggest ice surface for goalie training in the province and includes the latest hockey technology, like bio-mechanical analysis software, a high-def camera and 63-inch monitors. The IceLab offers an overall score after each session and each lesson is archived and provided to students at the end of five sessions. For more info, visit

JUICY NUMBERS: Evander Kane is one of six NHL players with more than 20 goals and 120 hits this season. The list includes Kane (22, 125), Ryan Callahan (23, 203), Alex Ovechkin (24, 146), Erik Cole (22, 146), Milan Lucic (20, 131) and David Clarkson (22, 129)... Bryan Little's first goal against the Avs was his team-leading sixth game winner... Dustin Byfuglien has nine points (2G, 7A) over the past six games... Mark Stuart leads the Jets with 139 blocked shots, which ties him for fifth in the NHL.

QUOTABLE: "Unfortunately, I can't report any major improvement. It's very disheartening... he's not himself, and it's not in a good way. We're just hoping to have a couple good days in a row and see him back to his normal self again. I know he wants that, too. It's very frightening for him as well." -- Lauren Pronger, wife of Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger, on his battles with post-concussion syndrome. Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 21, 2012 C3

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