Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Time is running out to prove playoff cred

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NEW YORK -- It was a simple question and Olli Jokinen didn't flinch, not for a second.

The Winnipeg Jets were in the process of conducting their own autopsy after Monday night's 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers when Jokinen was asked in a scrum of media if he thought his squad was a playoff club. Good question, especially given the current freefall.

"Absolutely," he began. "We've been Top 8 most of the year. There's been a lot of highs and lows in the season. Right now we've been through some tough stretches. We've got to get back to what we were doing a week ago and we'll be fine."

Taking that cue, here are three things the Jets were doing a week ago and need to get right ASAP:

1. THE BIG GUNS MUST FIRE AGAIN

The Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler trio has been the Jets' most potent and for stretches one of the NHL's deadliest lines this season.

But it's been four games since they've scored -- Little scored the first in a win over Tampa -- and the goal drought is even deeper for Ladd (10 games) and Wheeler (seven games).

"It's not like they're not trying," said coach Claude Noel. "They're getting a lot of attention. So, that doesn't leave you scoring a lot of goals past that. We've scored zero (against Pittsburgh), we've scored one (vs. Carolina) and now we've scored two (Monday). You can look at things however you want, but that puts more stress on the power play. Those aren't excuses, they're real. So, you've got to get production somewhere else."

2. PUTTING THE 'POWER' BACK IN THE MAN ADVANTAGE

Another disaster for the Jets' power play. Not only were they 0-for-5 on the night, including a brief 39-second two-man advantage, they surrendered a short-handed goal to Ryan Callahan. Winnipeg is now 0-for-12 in its last three games with the man advantage.

3. MORE HELP FROM THE FOOT SOLDIERS

The Jets got a goal from Nik Antropov, but the team's third and fourth lines are invisible. That said, Patrice Cormier saw only three shifts totalling 1:39, Chris Thorburn was on five times for 2:21 and Alex Burmistrov clocked in at 7:37. This has been a three-line club most of the season and has been getting consistent scoring from only a handful of forwards. This might only be fixed by working the phones before Wednesday's trade deadline.

So, repeating the question: are the Winnipeg Jets a playoff club? The cynics are being heard loud and clear now. And the Jets are running out of time to calm the restless masses.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 2, 2013 C1

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