Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fans appreciate what G-S-T brings to Jets

Grind line wins hearts of Winnipeg faithful

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HISTORY has shown that most crowds shouting 'G-S-T' in this country have been angry, unruly mobs monitored by riot police and steered clear of by the ruling political parties.

No tax is a popular one, after all, and that especially holds true for the goods and services tax.

And then there is the Winnipeg Jets version of G-S-T -- the Tanner Glass-Jim Slater-Chris Thorburn line that has won over the hearts of faithful for their work ethic and approach to the game.

So those G-S-T chants now heard reguarly at MTS Centre? It's all good.

"The support has been great," said Glass before Thursday night's game against the Washington Capitials. "Being from the Prairies (he's a Regina lad) I think I can say we're trying to be a line that identifies with the people. As funny as it sounds, Winnipeggers might like all the hits and fights and blocked shots and the time spent in the offensive zone grinding. And that's what we try to provide.

"We're a lunch-pail team and if we're going to be a team like that then we're a line that is going to get some praise. If our first line or second line had 40 points each right now we might not be hearing as much about the G-S-T line," added Glass with a chuckle, "but our top three-four are going pretty good right now and it's nice to have that fan support."

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Caps were 3-4 under new head coach Dale Hunter heading into Thursday's game. Hunter's immediate task is to get his troops to play with even a smidgen of the passion he brought during his days with the Caps.

"We want to win, that's the bottom line," Hunter said Thursday morning. "We've got good players and now we've just got to get everybody to fire on all cylinders.

"They're work ethic is there, that's the main thing. I changed a few systems and they're learning it and getting better at it.

"Hockey is hockey. It doesn't change much, it's just that they're bigger and faster and in junior they're still learning everything and there's a lot more teaching than here."

ENSTROM CLOSE, THEN WHAT? Jets head coach Claude Noel hinted Thursday that defenceman Tobias Enstrom, out since Halloween with a shoulder injury, could be in the lineup as soon as Saturday against Anaheim.

His return means a roster shuffle and some fingers are being pointed at Mark Flood as a possible candidate for demotion.

That said, Flood has been nothing but steady in his 20 games since being called up from St. John's -- only two Jets defencemen entered Thursday's game with a plus rating: Flood and Ron Hainsey.

There's also this: this organization has a soft spot for the former Manitoba Moose rearguard and there is a legitimate fear they would lose him if he was placed on the waiver wire.

"I don't know what we would do there. I haven't really crossed that bridge yet, but it's a legitimate question because I'd be somewhat fearful of losing him," said Noel. "We've invested a year and a half in developing him and he's proven, at least in my eyes, that he can play at this level.

"He's been good. But it's a delicate balance and there's some other factors there. My fear is we just don't want to lose good people and good players."

CLANG CITY: Jets sniper Evander Kane doesn't track the numbers, but he knows this: the sight and sound of a puck clanging off a goalpost -- and not going in -- is not something he likes.

How many posts has he hit this season, he was asked?

"I don't know, probably nine," he said. "They can be game changers. We've hit a lot of posts as a team, I mean, Bogo (Zach Bogosian) probably has four or five and I've hit quite a few. It's just a matter of an inch and you count them up at the end of the year and think 'Geez, I could have had a lot more goals.'

"It evens out. I may take one off the ass and have it go in and those count, too."

NO GOING BACK? Like his centre, Blake Wheeler does not want to go back to the dry times he endured to start this season with the Winnipeg Jets. With just two points in eight games and not a goal until Game 19, Wheeler has been much more productive lately.

He had nine points in the eight games prior to Thursday's encounter with Washington, and two goals and 18 assists on the season.

"There's going to be more of those (dry spells)," Wheeler said. "In your career, it's going to happen. It's just that you have to work through it. You become a better player, a better person. All good stuff comes from it as long as you just stay with it and don't get down on yourself.

"It sucks when you're going through it. At the time, I was miserable, but I think it's made me a better player. It helps me focus every game because I don't want to every slip up and get into a funk like that again."

NO STONES FROM GLASS: Jets winger Tanner Glass, who has been inside the drama between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks, said Thursday he'd rather not join the most recent round of verbal sniping started by Hawks forward Dave Bolland.

Bolland shot some personal trash-talk at Vancouver's Sedin twins.

"That's his role," Glass, the former Canucks player, said Thursday. "He's that kind of player. He's a pest. It surprises me he says it out of the blue; they haven't played each other for a while and they won't for another month, so that's kind of surprising.

"I don't want to get in the middle of it."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 16, 2011 C3

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