Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets take some needed R&R

Players loving four-day break 'to recharge'

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Athletes, by and large, are an eager bunch.

After a win, they're itching to get back on the field of play and do it some more. After a loss, the sooner they can return to start again so they can make amends, the better.

The Winnipeg Jets veered from this approach Friday and we are now all a little wiser about just how taxed they have been.

Having played the most games in the NHL, 42, through Friday, and in just 83 days and with close to the most miles traveled, not even the confidence and good vibes of a three-game winning streak could override the desire for a break this weekend.

Most of the Jets took Friday off, aside from the annual team picture.

Practise resumes Sunday but the squad will not have action again until Tuesday here against Tampa Bay.

"Right now I'm liking the four-day break," said Jets centre Bryan Little, a key figure in Thursday's 7-2 dismantling of the Florida Panthers. "We have some guys who are pretty sore and it's been a busy schedule. I'm looking forward to having a bit of a break. Relax. I'm going to get away from the game a bit. Probably not even watch or check the standings (today). Rest the mind."

Four clear days between games will seem like a vacation. It's Winnipeg's longest break of the intense 48-game schedule of 2013.

The value of rest was shown in the last week, Jets centre Olli Jokinen said. After returning home from a five-game losing streak, home cooking and sleeping in their own beds has done wonders.

"Absolutely. Being home the last three games and having a good practice a few days ago ... it's nice when you don't have to travel," Jokinen said. "I like that we play Tuesday. I like the fact we get two days off and we can rest. We've been playing a lot of hockey."

Jets coach Claude Noel brought a perky attitude to the MTS Centre interview room on Friday. Three straight wins and some optimism heading into next week's continued chase for a playoff spot will do that.

But the coach was placing major value in escaping for a couple of days. And he included himself, saying he will not be plotting, tinkering or strategizing during that time.

"There will be none of that," Noel said. "All the tinkering will be in my garage.

"I'm going to let my mind go free. I'm going to be a regular Winnipegger and just do something else. When I leave the rink today I'm not coming back until Sunday morning.

"It's just to recharge. I need it and so do the players."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 13, 2013 C2

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