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Fate accompli

For first time this season, club shows signs of resignation

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Another first for the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday -- an air of resignation at the MTS Centre as the team engaged in its daily meet with reporters and an optional practice.

A very poor start to the season never once approached this kind of day. A dark January, almost devoid of offence, did not lend itself to this kind of mood.

But Monday's 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the team's fourth defeat in its last five games, has left the playoff math approaching a mere dream.

Today, the Jets are eight points back of the eighth and final spot in the NHL's Eastern Conference, and there are only six games left, starting with tonight's home date with the New York Rangers (6 p.m. TSN, TSN 1290).

"Today's a hard day for the players and the staff, too," Jets coach Claude Noel admitted.

He said he couldn't get away either at home or in his office, from TV replays and highlights from Monday's setback.

"Please. Painful. It's hard. We just finished three in four nights with travel and the emotional roller coaster of the game and the disappointment of the game was really tough," he said. "It's tough to deal with today. The players are tired and spent and fatigued and physically fatigued."

Noel was pretty clear that the disappointment does not lead to quitting.

"It's one game," he said. "You can't wrap yourself around one game and go crashing down.

"You've got this Rangers game, it's all we can handle. They have a really good team. Our players have pride. They've competed their whole life. I don't think it's an issue for me.

"We have to focus. You always have things to play for and there's always goals. You always can get better. To me there's no reason to step back. That's just unacceptable. That's not what you do when you compete.

"We're in the business of winning, of playing well, building a better foundation than we have, defending better, continually improving. There's a whole lot of (reasons) and they're not going away and I'm not going to let them go away."

-- JETS right-winger Kyle Wellwood had a three-point game Monday, including his first goal in eight games and his first point in six.

"We talked to the coach and on the road we get some tough matchups, like in Pittsburgh with Crosby and Malkin," said Wellwood, who has given the Jets 44 points this season. "We weren't able to compete with those guys yet. Last night we had the lower, weaker lines and we were able to take advantage."

While Wellwood wasn't busy patting himself on the back, his coach did a little of that.

"What's impressed me the most about him is how well he checks," Claude Noel said. "I know how good hockey-sense-wise he is. He's a dependable player. I put him out against big guys, heavy guys and he still manages to defend well. I don't look at him as a liability when he plays. To me that's the biggest thing."

-- THE Jets' optional skate saw few participants, but right-winger Chris Thorburn, who's missed seven games since March 9, was back on the ice.

Thorburn, with a lower-body injury, is said to be doing better than expected and though he might not play tonight, he is likely to be going on the road trip that starts Friday in Carolina.

-- LOST in the disappointment of the Jets' back-to-back home losses -- their first since mid-January -- was a second straight two-goal performance by winger Antti Miettinen.

Miettinen had played 34 games without a goal since being claimed on waivers in December, then he put up a deuce in the loss to Carolina on March 18.

He fired two more in Monday's second period and now has 10 points in 39 games.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2012 C3

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