Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

2011 a year of upheaval for players

Move to Winnipeg most memorable event

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WIN or lose to the Maple Leafs, the Jets say goodbye to a memorable 2011 tonight.

Some players, like captain Andrew Ladd, got married in the summer, while a few others became parents.

Everyone changed addresses, of course, as the team they started the calendar year with moved to new city under a different name. Let’s start there: "When we got the news that we were coming to Winnipeg, obviously that was a big part of it," said centre Jim Slater, on what stands out for him this past year. "Just coming to the city and getting to see and feel what this place is all about, it’s definitely been one of the top things that has happened to me in my hockey career."

Moving around is what Blake Wheeler counts as his biggest memory in 2011. He was traded from the Boston Bruins to Atlanta in February, and then found himself on the road again in the summer, this time to Manitoba.

"I didn’t want to be a suitcase this early in my career — three teams in a year, that will do it," he said Friday.

"I guess it’s one of those things. It’s a business. When I was traded to Atlanta I was given a good opportunity to take my game to the next level. It was tough leaving Boston... but I’m pretty happy where I am now."

Wheeler, 25, says he would love a little stability in 2012 but as he mentioned, this is the hockey business, and those comforts don’t come with any promises or guarantees.

Speaking of that, Kyle Wellwood’s 2011 went from Russia (KHL) to St. Louis, to San Jose, to a summer of uncertainty, to finally signing with Winnipeg in September.

Four teams, three countries and two leagues in one year is enough to make anyone’s head spin. "I don’t know if there are regrets, but you hope 2012 is a little easier and there’s not too much drama," the Jets forward said.

 

INJURY NEWS: It appears Jim Slater will be a game-time decision once again.

The centre is dealing with an oblique/ rib injury suffered in Tuesday’s game against Colorado. He was a late scratch before the Jet’s 1-0 overtime win over Los Angeles Thursday and despite practising with the club Friday, his status is questionable for tonight’s game against the Leafs.

"We’ll see what (Saturday) brings," he said. "Right now it feels pretty good. I still have to go through some different tests to see that I can play at the NHL level."

Defenceman Zach Bogosian was given Friday off for "maintenance," head coach Claude Noel said, while Randy Jones (lower body) has been cleared to play. With Dustin Byfuglien (lower body) shelved until at least next week, the Jets have seven healthy defencemen available tonight.

Centre Bryan Little remains out with a foot injury.

 

QUOTABLE: Tim Stapleton, on playing with wingers Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler Thursday night: "My body, the first period I had to adjust to that. Usually used to sliding down the bench but I had to keep jumping over for once."

The diminutive centre, who usually toils on the fourth line, saw 16:19 minutes of ice time against the Kings — a season-high for him.

 

EVEN STEVEN: The Jets and Leafs share identical records (18-14-5) and both are right in the middle of things in the Eastern Conference playoff positioning scramble. The Jets were in seventh spot coming into Friday’s action; the Leafs eighth.

Here’s Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf: "The standings are so tight — we know it, you guys know it, everyone outside of the rink knows how big points are — and when the standings are so tight, when you’re playing a conference game, the points are even bigger."

 

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 31, 2011 C3

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