Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Buff, Ladd dynamic duo in charge-and-score play

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IT won't rank as one of the Top 10 Winnipeg Jets goals of the season, but Thursday's game-winning marker was a combination of classic Dustin Byfuglien, followed by vintage Andrew Ladd.

With the game tied 1-1 with just over eight minutes left, Byfuglien gathered up the puck in his own end, found his third and fourth gear while going wide on Andy Greene and, when his wraparound attempt was stopped, watched his teammate and good pal Andrew Ladd stuff home the rebound.

"I just brought it back to set up and a guy tried to chase me out," Byfuglien said. "I knew he was behind me, so I just wanted to get going and take the open ice, and it was nice to have the chance to find some open room out there."

Added Ladd: "He did all the work and I just went to the front of the net and picked up the garbage. I thought he had a tremendous game. He was all over the ice -- big hits and he definitely had a big impact on this game. You just kinda get out of the way and try and find the open space. When he's got a head of steam like that, it's tough to stop him. He just goes wide, bears down and no one in the league can move him."

During a post-game scrum, Byfuglien was asked a couple of times about Ladd's current play.

"He's been playing really well. He's one of those guys that is always going to be good. And right now, everything's going great for him. It's good to see, because we need someone to follow and he's got that ability to have guys follow his lead."

But when he was quizzed if Ladd had cranked up his game another notch, Byfuglien couldn't resist serving a compliment, albeit with an added dig.

"I can't pump Laddy's tires too much," Byfuglien said with a grin. "He has been playing very well. He's been doing the right things and the smart things."

"That's actually a nice thing for Buff to say... he's usually ripping on me," said Ladd. "I'll take that. Honestly, there were times tonight where I could have been better. It just seems like the puck's going in the net for me. I'll take it."

PUCK-STOPPER PROSPECT WATCH: Two Jets goaltending draft picks are jumping off the page in the good ol' U.S. of A. Jason Kasdorf, a Winnipeg product drafted in the sixth round (157th overall) in 2011, has been voted the ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Month and Rookie of the Month for February, while Connor Hellebuyck, drafted in the fifth round (120th overall) in 2012, has been honoured as the Hockey East Player of the Month.

The two goalies, both freshmen, have grabbed the starting chores for their respective schools in their first years with the programs. Kasdorf, who plays for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, led the Engineers to a 7-1 record in February while posting a 1.48 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage. Overall, he is 11-3-2 with a 1.63 GAA and .938 save percentage, numbers that rank him fourth and sixth, respectively, in the nation.

Kasdorf has now been honoured four times by the ECAC, earning the top rookie and goaltender award twice each. Hellebuyck, meanwhile, was 5-0 in February for the University of Massachussetts-Lowell River Hawks, posting a 1.61 GAA and a .933 save percentage with one shutout.

HOT STREAK COOLED BY SUSPENSION? Mark Scheifele has been plowing through the Ontario Hockey League since being sent back down to the Barrie Colts by the Jets in January. Since his demotion, Scheifele has piled up 18 points (11G, 7A) in nine games but his hot streak was slowed last Friday when he picked up a game misconduct for boarding and was subsequently suspended for two games.

Scheifele will be back in action today against Mississauga.

Ed.Tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2013 C2

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