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Jets talking like a team ready to win

Culture Club

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Is the long-awaited culture change within the Winnipeg Jets beginning to emerge?

Only the results will confirm it but some of the sound clips coming from the Jets' room are hinting at the transformation that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has identified as a top priority since Day 1 of the franchise's relocation in 2011.

Drilling into the team's performance since the January coaching change, you find a good-but-not-great 9-3-1.

The team has gained some traction under new boss Paul Maurice -- getting back in touch with the bona fide group of playoff contenders -- but as always, it's where do they go from here?

And especially after a 19-day span between games?

"You try to buy into what we were doing before," Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian said Tuesday, asked specifically about restarting the momentum the team seemed to be building after Maurice's arrival. "If we keep that up, we'll be fine.

"In years previous it would seem like we'd go good, we'd go good then we'd fall back to our old bad habits. We can't let those things creep in. I don't really see it happening."

'In years previous... we'd go good... then we'd fall back to our old bad habits. We can't let those things creep in. I don't really see it happening' -- Zach Bogosian

Bogosian spoke Tuesday less like today's average NHL interview robot and more like somebody who wasn't predicting the future but was pretty clear about what he's seeing and feeling inside the Jets' room.

Cocky is the wrong word. Confident is much closer.

"Nobody's really ... it's been pretty positive around this room," Bogosian said. "We know we're not going to win every single game but coach has made it very clear that the games where you fall down a little bit, you get right back up and keep going.

"Every game's important this time of year, of course, but at the end of the day it's about making sure you go out there to get the job done."

Here's something to support the recent subtle differences from the Thrashers/Jets cross-breed that has failed to make the playoffs since 2007.

Recall the Feb. 6 game in Washington, where the Jets looked like their past, unable to stand the success of the lead, eventually wilting 4-2 to the Caps.

Fast forward two days to the end of the road trip against the much sturdier St. Louis Blues. The Jets refused to go away that Saturday afternoon and even in the face of two once-a-season bounces that went the Blues' way -- including one off the shin of a referee -- the Jets rallied three times and got the game to a shootout.

The one point might be a small thing, a small result, but the team's play that day countered their past form and its form from two nights previous.

Will that hold and can it possibly hold through the lengthy Olympic break?

"It's always good to get away a little bit," Bogosian said. "It is our job and it's very intense but at the end of the day we're still normal human beings that we enjoy our down time and to get away from it a little bit.

"Right now you start to get that mindset back, that you're back into the grind, and you really enjoy your break but once you step back on the ice, it's go time. We all recognize that. We're all professionals. Everyone's looking forward to this, excited to get back at it."

Blending the execution with the attitude, that's always the trick to moving up in the standings.

And if the break is to yield positions, it will be from the mental side.

"This is more mental than physical, though we had a few guys dinged up there and it's nice to let your body heal a little bit," Bogosian said. "But that break was more a mental thing than a physical thing."

In case you were thinking something else, Maurice doesn't believe that getting in touch with the Western Conference's playoff pack is much to crow about.

"We're still in the early parts of what we're doing," he said Tuesday.

There were no great revelations about the team, to him, during the break, the coach said.

"Let's not hold onto any part of this that was superstition, that there was some reason we were winning that was above and beyond that it was exactly what we were doing," Maurice said.

"I thought our compete level was very high. I looked at every game and was really pleased with a lot of what I saw but also saw a lot of areas and thought, geez, we can get a little better there. The quality of our hockey, I think, has room to get better."

More execution to go with that attitude after 9-3-1 in 13 games would qualify as culture change.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2014 C1

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