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Determined Ladd leads Jets past pesky Bolts

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THE true value of Andrew Ladd showed itself in the second period Thursday, when he stood in front of Mathieu Garon and tipped the puck into the back of the Tampa Bay goal.

That screen and deflection in the toughest area of the ice -- the front of the net -- gave the Jets their third goal of the game and helped paved the way for a 4-3 win over the Lightning at the MTS Centre. If you've paid any attention to the Winnipeg captain's effort through this little run the team is on (4-0-1 in the last five), that's where Ladd has found success.

By getting to the net.

"Andrew Ladd of late has been really good, really good," Jets head coach Claude Noel said after the game. "It just goes to show you what confidence does for you. You have to remember that when you're captain of a team there is a lot of pressure, and he already puts pressure on himself. It's not easy when things aren't going great, you (put) more of a burden on yourself.

"I thought he was really good (Thursday), in a lot of areas."

Thanks to his first goal -- a one-timer from, where else, in front of the net -- Ladd has scored in three straight games. That five-goal run moved his season total to 21, making him just the second Winnipeg player to crack the 20-goal plateau this year (Evander Kane has 23).

Ladd has put up eight points in his last four games; his line of centre Bryan Little and winger Blake Wheeler has 25 points in the last four games.

"You score a couple goals and you get confidence; you start shooting the puck more," Ladd said. "(Our line) seems to be clicking pretty good right now, kind of back to where we were at the end of last year, which is a good feeling."

Last thought on Ladd goes to Noel, who to his credit, has remained patient with his captain. Maybe he's had no choice, or maybe he knew exactly what kind of player he inherited this season.

"He's had his ups and downs through the year, but I feel for him," the coach said. "We're in a market where the frenzy is going good and he wants to do real well, so from my standpoint, he's been really good. He's been a tremendous leader for us."

FLOOD WATCH: The Jets put out a different look against the Lightning, dressing 11 forwards and seven defencemen.

The move accomplished two things: One, it gave offensive players like Evander Kane and Alex Burmistrov a little more ice time with the remnants of the fourth line; and two, it allowed defenceman Mark Flood to get back into the lineup. Earlier in the day, Noel stated he needed to get the first-year NHL player some playing time again.

No time like the present.

"It is awkward -- it's a lot easier to roll four (lines)," Noel said afterwards. "It was good. Is it ideal? Not really, but I thought it was good in the game. Good enough."

Prior to Thursday, Flood was a healthy scratch for 15 straight games. Forwards Eric Fehr and Antti Miettinen did not dress against the Lightning.

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 24, 2012 C2

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