Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Contract negotiations shelved for playoff push

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JIM Slater, just like Chris Mason and a handful of others, are completely aware their days as Winnipeg Jets could be measured in weeks, not years.

And right now, they're cool with that.

The Jets have seven players who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents come July 1 -- Slater and Mason, as well as Tanner Glass, Kyle Wellwood, Tim Stapleton, Randy Jones and Mark Flood -- and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said Monday after the trading deadline that they'll get to those negotiations in due time.

But right now it's all about a push to the post-season.

"I like that... less distraction is better," said Slater. "Obviously we've got a job to do here and we've got to put our best foot forward day in and day out. That's what the summers are for, those negotiations, and right now it's about getting this team to a place where we want to be."

Mason, who has been through the NHL wars, also knows that a lack of any contract talks right now shouldn't be seen as a slight.

"You don't take that stuff personally," he said. "Every team has different ways of handling things. You have to respect that. I don't think they are slighting anybody by any means. That's the way they want to handle it and that's the way it is. We don't have a say in that. You gotta play hockey and that's our job."

-- CONTENDERS VS. PRETENDERS: The Jets' last two regulation-time losses were to the Islanders and Oilers, leading to the theory that Winnipeg had been 'playing down to their competition.' But consider this: In games this season against the 14 non-playoff teams (heading into Tuesday's action) the Jets were 20-10-4. In games vs. playoff teams, their record is 10-17-4.

"If you're looking at a pattern, such as the Islander game and taking them too lightly and then you play the Islanders and you lose, then you take Edmonton too lightly and you lose... I don't see it that way," said coach Claude Noel. "I don't think that's there because I think the games are too important at this time of year. I don't think that through the year playing 65 games that there's been any easy games where we've been able to say, 'There's an automatic two points.' Every game is difficult to win. Why would you start thinking that now? That would be odd for me."

-- DAILY DAY-TO-DAY UPDATE: Defenceman Zach Bogosian (upper-body injury) continues to practise with the team and, as has been the case over the last few days, will be listed as day-to-day. Once again, he hopes to be in the lineup Thursday against Florida.

"I'll skate today, skate tomorrow and see where Thursday is," said Bogosian prior to Tuesday's optional skate. "I'm shooting for Thursday. Things are feeling good and I'm making forward strides with this injury.

"It's never fun sitting up there (in the press box). You want to be down helping out the guys as much as possible. When you're sitting up there you see a lot of things and you get an extra buzz to see the fans from that perspective. I'm itching to get back and I'm liking where things are going so far."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 29, 2012 C3

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