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Big picture becoming clearer

Jets now expect -- not hope -- to win Jets set distractions aside, now playing with purpose

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It was in a near-empty Winnipeg Jets dressing room late Saturday night -- not long after the home side had dispatched Teemu Selanne and the Anaheim Ducks -- when a chat with Zach Bogosian went from reacting to the moment to taking a huge step back to take in the big picture.

Yes, he told a media throng, it was cool to be a part of a special evening and witness the love Winnipeggers had for 'The Finish Flash' and vice versa.

Yes, it means a lot to chip in offensively with a goal and two assists, especially when he spent the first chunk of the season clanging shots off iron.

And, of course, getting Toby Enstrom back was huge even though he loved the extra workload while his Swedish teammate was injured.

The media crowd then dispersed and Bogosian -- the 21-year-old emerging defensive anchor -- tried to put into perspective what the 5-3 win over the Ducks meant and where this Jets team is headed. Or, more specifically, could be headed if it continues to mature and grow.

"A game like this with all the hype behind it... I don't know how many young teams have gone through something like that, or something like this whole season," Bogosian said. "I really think it shows a lot of character and what we have in this locker-room with the mix of young guys and veterans.

"It's a growing process, a learning process. But getting wins is always a good thing."

Fact is, there is no better evidence to represent how this team is developing than the black and white of the NHL standings. Consider this: Since being booed at home in a 5-2 loss to Florida and then stinking out the joint in a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus -- back-to-back defeats that dropped them to 5-9-3 -- the Jets have gone 10-4-1 to jump right back into the Eastern Conference playoff race.

It's worth noting that the impressive run has included wins over the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, the league-leading Minnesota Wild and the top squad in the East, the Philadelphia Flyers.

"When you win like this you start to build a winning atmosphere," said Bogosian. "Guys are in a good mood around the room. The coaches are in a good mood. The GM's in a good mood. The owner's in a good mood. But we do know this: We have to get back to work on Monday and get right back at it for Tuesday's game (against the New York Islanders)."

Now maybe it's that last comment that explains where the Jets are at in a nutshell: Settling into their new digs now and understanding how to use the emotional fuel the rabid home side can provide, this is a team that now steps onto the ice expecting to win, not hoping to do so.

And that's not just a subtle shift in thinking, it's a mindset that can turn a team with potential into a team that's in the Stanley Cup derby come next April.

"Momentum is such a funny thing," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "When you got it, you want to ride it out as long as you can. And when you don't have it, it's (about) getting it back as quickly as possible. In a long season you're going to have those tough games and you have to get it back as quick as you can.

"I definitely see the maturity in our game. Confidence is a big thing. I think we have more skill on this team than most people give us credit for and now it's about harnessing that."

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

MORE JETS C2, 3

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2011 C1

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