Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Declaration of Resurgence

Jets return refreshed and ready to go in Philadelphia

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- It's happened here before, of course. Way, way back Thomas Jefferson and a bunch of like-minded dudes got together in the City of Brotherly Love and, driven by a cause, pieced together the American Declaration of Independence.

So let the history books show that on Jan. 30, 2012 Andrew Ladd and the Winnipeg Jets also gathered in this historic burg and -- driven by their cause to make a push for a NHL playoff spot -- pieced together their own proclamation: a Declaration of Resurgence, if you will.

That may be dramatizing things a tad, but what the hey...

"You shouldn't have to say anything at this point," said Ladd, the Jets' captain, after the team's first practice since before the all-star break. "Enough's been said and it's time for us to dig ourselves out of this hole. That comes with work and showing up sharp every day and with a purpose."

Some offence would be a bonus, too.

The Jets face the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at the Wells Fargo Center sitting in 10th spot in the Eastern Conference -- five points out of a playoff spot and also five points out of first place in the Southeast Division. But after climbing the standings in December with a 10-3-1 record that saw them outscore their opponents 33-26, January has seen the Jets stumble with a 3-8-1 mark while being outscored 35-20.

"You'd like to see more offence," said head coach Claude Noel. "We have to get more production from some players. I think there are some players that are in their own droughts and they have to step up and play a little bit better.

"This is a time for us now where we have to find a way to win games. Guys have to get untracked and get going. It looks like some guys are invigorated coming back. I think some guys gave some thought as to where they're at in the season and judging from today's practice I thought some guys were real good. That's a good sign."

Still, here's the thing about all the math and number crunching being done right now in an effort to project how many wins/points the Jets might need in order to qualify for the Stanley Cup derby: all that means diddly and squat unless they start living in the here and now. After the matchup with Philly the Jets face two Southeast opponents in Tampa and Florida on Thursday and Friday before meeting the Canadiens in Montreal on Sunday.

Yes, the NHL season is hitting the home stretch now.

"Everybody sees clearly that for us this is a make-or-break month," Noel reasoned. "We've got to be hanging around that (eighth-place) line. We've got six of our next seven games on the road. It's going to be very well defined: We have to produce. We have to get wins otherwise we get too far behind and we can't catch up. We've already got five points to make up, we've played the second-most games in our conference so... we've got to find ways to win games and it has to be now."

While the Jets have some ground to make up, of their final 32 games only seven are against non-conference opponents while 12 involve their Southeast rivals. In other words, the opportunity to reach out and grab a playoff spot by the throat is staring them in the collective mug.

What has to change? Good question, that.

"It's the same thing we've been preaching all along: Playing a fast game with lots of pressure and just being a tough team to play against," Ladd said. "It's time to step up.

"That's the nice thing about the break, you're able to get away from the frustration that was probably building and you come back with positive excitement. You just want to stay with what's in front of you. I think you understand about where you are and where you sit and how important these games are. But the main focus is how we need to play and how we need to show up, not just for games but for practices, too."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2012 D3

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