Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Road woes in rear-view mirror

But Jets know playoffs hinge on figuring it out

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The damage of their road play last week is now apparent but the Winnipeg Jets are back to whistling a merry tune.

And why not? They are at home readying for three games at the MTS Centre, starting tonight against the Dallas Stars.

The Jets' home record is top-four in the Eastern Conference at 21-10-4. The last prolonged run here added to it, at 5-1-2.

"We always feed off the crowd pretty well and we just play with a lot more energy, a lot faster at home," the Jets' leading point man, Blake Wheeler, said after Tuesday's practice at the MTS Iceplex. "I think that's been the biggest difference, that we've really fed off the crowd and our excitement level is a lot different when we're at home than when we're on the road."

The team's back-to-back road losses last week in Vancouver and Calgary, which has stalled them at 72 points, seemed a far-off concern.

"It's pretty simple," Wheeler said. "When you're excited, you don't have to think about skating hard or going fast. You just do it.

"Whether or not we win has nothing to do with it. We play a certain way at home, with speed and excitement and if we get beat, then it will take a hell of a team to beat us."

Their 72 points has them down to 10th spot in the conference and six points away from the playoff line, as well as third in the Southeast Division.

"I don't think you should have to flip a switch at all," said Jets defenceman Mark Stuart, asked the home-away question. "The switch should already be flipped."

It's the only path to success, given after this week's home games versus Dallas, Washington and Carolina, the team will have seven away games and three home games remaining.

"These are points we need," Stuart said.

"I don't really look at home or away but obviously you guys do because our away record (11-19-4) hasn't been good. Right now, it's just a matter of getting points. It doesn't matter where you're playing."

But for starters, the Jets should hope it matters some this week. They have matched and bettered more than just a couple of elite opponents on their own ice.

"We've done it before," said Jets goalie Chris Mason. "I know the reasons. We just feel a lot more comfortable at home and we go after other teams and we seem to play our gameplan a lot better. On the road, there's no question it's harder to win in another team's building.

"To this point, we haven't done that as well as we'd like to. If we're going to make the playoffs, we're going to have to win on the road. That's the bottom line. We can't just expect to play well at home (and make it)."

 

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 14, 2012 C1

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