Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Greed would be good right now

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This is no time for satisfaction but perhaps the moment for the Winnipeg Jets to get greedy.

Forget this sneaking into the Eastern Conference. Why not win the Southeast Division and claim at the very worst third seed in the East? Why not host a playoff game on opening night of the post-season and let the 15,004 strong in Winnipeg show the hockey world what's cooking on the Prairie?

Yes, it's plenty early and there's lots of time for the wheels to fall off, but Claude Noel has his team playing their best hockey since shedding the skin of the Atlanta Thrashers and rising again here in Winnipeg.

Winners of four of their last five, the Jets find themselves the hottest team in the Southeast and just one point back of the Carolina Hurricanes for top spot.

"We've gotten to the line. Now we need to keep our foot on the gas," said Noel. "We need to keep things in balance and perspective. We haven't won anything. To me the most important thing is to keep playing the way we have these last two games."

Winnipeg wakes up this morning to melting snow and a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Smile at your neighbour. Life is good.

"These last two games, they're the best we've played in my four-and-a-half years with this team going back to our time in Atlanta," said veteran defenceman Ron Hainsey. "This weekend we're playing Toronto and Ottawa. And they're right ahead of us. Carolina too. So there are three teams very close to us that we could pass. If we have always regressed when we get where we want to be, why not blow right through that and get a nice six- or seven-point cushion and not have to worry about it?"

Thursday's win over the New York Rangers was another consistent game filled with all the good stuff Noel has been preaching.

Nik Antropov is young again and playing like his hips and knees have never been surgically repaired. Dustin Byfuglien is playing like very few defenceman in the league. Andrew Ladd is Canada's best captain. Evander Kane is a threat nearly every shift. Everyone is emotionally invested. The Jets are playing like a team with purpose.

"The sky is the limit for us right now," said veteran winger Chris Thorburn. "We just have to keep doing what we're doing. We're getting better each game and it's giving us wins. It's not a sprint. But now is not the time to be satisfied. That's something we have to get over."

More hockey like this will get the Jets in the post-season. And for once, the promise of satisfaction guaranteed will ring perfectly true.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 15, 2013 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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