Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Goals would be useful

Time for Little, Ladd, Wheeler line to start scoring some

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Six games is a small sample, but so far this season, the Winnipeg Jets are not far off their 2010-11 Atlanta form in terms of offence.

The Jets have scored 11 times so far and entering Friday night's play, they and the Edmonton Oilers are the only two teams in the NHL averaging less than two goals per game.

Winnipeg would surely take Edmonton's troubles at this point, though. The Jets have scored 11 times in their first six games and have three points. The Oilers have scored 11 times and have six points in six games.

Goals could solve some of the Jets' problems and the potential source is easy to find.

Winnipeg's top line of Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler has one, a goal from Ladd, in six games. All three skaters have one point apiece.

It's not the pace envisioned and has put something of a spotlight and a weight over to the unit of Alexander Burmistrov, Nik Antropov and Kyle Wellwood, who have come up with 11 points in six games.

"If we're able to capitalize a little bit, I think it takes pressure off of everyone," Wheeler said Friday after the team's optional practice at the MTS Iceplex. "I think Antro and Burmi and Welly, they've been kind of carrying the load for us and if we're able to hold our end of the bargain as well, I think it's going to be a few goals a night right there and that's kind of what we need to win, two or three goals.

"That'll be our number to hopefully win games. If we can hold our end of the bargain, it will make things easier for everybody else."

Wheeler and company will give it another shot tonight when the Carolina Hurricanes visit the MTS Centre for a 6 p.m. start (CBC, 1290).

It's not like the Little-Ladd-Wheeler unit has been invisible. They've had their chances and shots; Wheeler is second on the team with 22 shots through six games and Ladd has 20.

"I think it's one of those things that the only thing missing is the results," Wheeler said Friday. "Our line, we feel like we're getting multiple scoring chances. It's just a matter of putting them in the net.

"It's a big thing, that if we can get one to go in, it'll hopefully start falling into place."

Soon would be good for all involved. Wheeler certainly demonstrated that late in Thursday's 4-1 loss in Ottawa, when after another failed offensive foray, the Scotiabank Place glass took a beating from his stick.

"I think we'd be concerned if we weren't getting the opportunities," Wheeler said. "That's how you gauge yourself."

One thing neither he nor his linemates want to do, Wheeler said, is to start employing new game plans.

"You want to keep doing the same things that have given you success," he said. "In terms of the result, as a player, when you start putting them in the net, it seems like you can't miss. And when you're not, you don't think you'll ever put it in.

"If you start changing things, playing differently than we have, that's where we'll get into trouble. I think we do the same things and keep the faith and bear down when we get opportunities... then they're all going to start going in."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 22, 2011 C2

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