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No comfort in trade talk: Veteran Thorburn says closely knit club well worth keeping together

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It is a date some NHLers fear while others embrace warmly as an opportunity for change.

But if you ask around the dressing room of the Winnipeg Jets, many players will insist this: they have a closely knit hockey club that truly relishes putting on the armour and going to battle with each other. And they'd like to keep it that way, especially with the NHL trade deadline -- Feb. 27 -- looming large.

"It's the business part of it," said Jets winger Chris Thorburn. "We've all been through it, we all understand it. It's an exciting time for the media, but at the same time you've got to play and not let those outside distractions bother you.

"We're confident with what we have in here. We've got good pieces, we've got good depth. I think it's just a matter of time before we explode offensively and if we can just continue to play well defensively I think our wins will start coming."

All of that, of course, isn't going to necessarily put a stop to what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and assistant GM Craig Heisinger have in mind to potentially upgrade the current talent or stockpile picks and prospects for the future. And that means that from now until Feb. 27, players in the dressing room will be both pushing to stay in the playoff race and wondering if they're vulnerable for a change of address.

"That's not in my hands, that's management," said Thorburn. "You never want to see a guy leave the dressing room. We've created some great bonds in here and we're a tight unit. I mean, if you ask any guy in this locker-room they'll be on the same page as far as saying, 'We're good.' "

-- CAPS WATCH: Washington's 4-0 win over Florida on Tuesday not only propelled them to the top of the Southeast Division, it moved them from ninth to third in the Eastern Conference standings, as the division winner automatically receives a top three seed in the conference.

Like the Jets -- like every NHL team at this time of year -- the Capitals are attempting to manage a busy schedule. Head coach Dale Hunter worked his team for just 40 minutes on Wednesday and gave Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Dennis Wideman a free pass to avoid the practice.

"You see our schedule," Hunter told the Washington Post. "We play Thursday, then we play Sunday, Monday with some travel involved," Hunter said. "They "get little bumps and bruises and you give them time."

-- AND HOW ABOUT THAT 'D'? While everyone in Jets-ville fixates on the team's scoring woes -- the club is now 26th in goals per game at 2.34 -- the defensive effort should not be overlooked. The Jets limited a potent Toronto Maple Leafs' attack to just one goal and 18 shots and Winnipeg is now 14th in goals against per game (2.69). Still, the margin of error is slim and the Jets' goal differential -- goals for-goals against -- stands at -20. Only the Ducks (-21); Islanders (-24), Lightning, Hurricanes and Sabres (-28) and Blue Jackets (-52) are worse.

-- QUOTABLE: "The Sniper? I couldn't remember who Thorburn was... I call him The Sniper now. It was a good goal. It was nice to see him score, too, again because he's endured enough for the first 50 games. It's nice to see him get some success. That line has been really reliable for us and played well. We'll just keep him right where he is." -- Jets head coach Claude Noel when jokingly asked if Thorburn, who has two goals in his last five games, might now be a candidate for the team's top line.

-- PIZZA DAY: Noel frequently laments his defencemen serving up turnovers -- free pizzas, he calls them -- so it was a comical to see his wife Lynda caught on the video scoreboard during the action Tuesday night passing along slices as part of a marketing promotion where everyone in her section received a piece of pizza. Told of it after the game, Noel grinned and added: "I'd rather her give up the free pizzas than our defence. We've played some games with that issue, we don't care much for that." Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 9, 2012 C2

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