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Ladd, Little, Wheeler: one of NHL's top lines, says coach

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WINNIPEG — There’s little doubt left in Winnipeg Jets’ coach Claude Noel’s mind about his top line.

In the team’s current four-game winning streak, including Tuesday's 4-3 shootout win over Tampa Bay, the trio of Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler has seven goals, 15 assists for 22 points.

"You’ve really got to tip your hat to them, the three of them, they’ve done a good job at becoming a top line in the National Hockey League," Noel said after this morning’s practice at the MTS Centre. "Whereas before, even last year, you’re like, ‘Are they or aren’t they or what are they?’ Well, it’s pretty hard to argue right now. They’ve certainly matured there."

The team’s streak, taking them to 46 points with five games to play, has it in the running for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Jets are tied in points with the New York Rangers for the eighth and final post-season berth.

The next chance to advance is Thursday night, when the homestand continues with a game against the Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m., TSNJets, TSN1290).

Noel wasn’t predicting anything drastically different from his team.

"You guys are constantly badgering -- write that down, ‘badgering’ -- on what’s going to be the solution," he said. "Well, you don’t know the solution. You’re trying to find it.

"You’re searching and searching, then you’re going to play the game and see."

Noel said it’s unlikely that Nik Antropov, now out two weeks because of injury, will return Thursday.

Neither Antropov nor injured centre JIm Slater were on the ice for today’s full but short (35 minutes) practice.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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