December 10, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Eight days without any points and the Winnipeg Jets find themselves descending the stairs into the NHL’s basement. They’re not quite all the way down but they can see the cellar floor.
In a condensed 48-game season going to sleep for a week can draw the curtains on a team’s playoff sunlight and that has been the case for the Jets.
Three-straight home losses this week and Winnipeg has been stuck at 11 points since Feb. 9th, while much of the league has either moved past them or built on their lead.
The Washington Capitals also have 11 points but sit behind the Jets in the Eastern Conference because they’ve played more games. Only the Columbus Blue Jackets with 10 points have less than the Jets in the NHL.
Winnipeg now plays nine of its next 11 games on the road and goalie Ondrej Pavelec says his team has to at least consider that its season is on the line as it embarks on a five-game road trip beginning Tuesday in Buffalo against the Sabres.
"I don’t want to say this is the most important trip of the season but if we don’t win some games we’re going to be in a very big hole," said Pavelec.
Health, good goaltending and no slumps were said to be the keys to this season for the Jets and they’ve failed in all three categories.
The blueline missed Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien for a stretch of games and when the Jets finally had their top-six defenders back in the lineup, leading scorer Toby Enstrom came down with a shoulder injury that will sideline him for up to a month.
Pavelec has been ordinary at best and the Jets have now lost four of the last five.
All of this adds up to a team on the outside looking in.
"You have to win two of every three games," said coach Claude Noel, looking forward at his team playing nine of 11 away from Winnipeg. "You have to find a way to win on this road trip or it will be a real grind."
Bogosian said his team’s effort has been good in its last two games but that doesn’t count in the NHL.
"You have to win. Trying isn’t good enough. You need results," said Bogosian.
For the Jets, nothing could be more true right now.
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