Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets hope to feed off playoff fervour

No. 3 seed a carrot for Southeast leaders

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They plug into the energy of the NHL's playoff race every day and the Winnipeg Jets are hoping it will provide a surge today.

It's the latest most important game of the season this afternoon when the Carolina Hurricanes visit the MTS Centre.

"We talk about this every day," Jets centre Bryan Little said after a short practice on Friday. "It's the big story. Everyone's paying attention and everyone's watching closely.

"It seems like even more this season than any other season I've been in."

The Jets have 38 points through 35 games, leading the Southeast Division. The Canes, 4-1 losers to Winnipeg last Tuesday in Raleigh, have 32 points in 32 games.

Right behind sagging Carolina (0-6-1) are the Washington Capitals with 31 points in 33 games.

While the Southeast lead is a ticket to the playoffs in the No. 3 seed, the "regular" standings aren't out of mind. There, the Jets are one point better than New Jersey (37) and three better than the Rangers and Islanders (35 each), who share eighth.

"I love it. It's fun," said Jets winger Evander Kane. "You're in a playoff race and it's nice to be in one this late in the season and it's great to be able to control your own destiny, get into the playoffs on your own merit."

The Jets come into this afternoon's contest off a disappointing 4-0 defeat Thursday in Pittsburgh.

It was their ninth loss this season (out of 15) by three or more goals.

Winnipeg's 2-9 record in such margins doesn't look very good -- their current playoff standing is almost wholly because of a 10-4-2 mark in one-goal games and 6-2 in two-goal games -- but it might speak a little to the team's bounce-back abilities.

"I think it comes with trying to grow as a team," said Jets winger Kyle Wellwood. "We knew going into the season our goal was to make the playoffs because we haven't done it in quite a while."

Little said the team has shown it can be resilient.

"In games when we're down a goal or two, we've shown that we can come back and win big games. "We're pretty confident when we get down but I think we're better when we have a good start, come out with the lead."

In Tuesday's win in Carolina, the Jets gave up the game's first goal before rallying.

Jets coach Claude Noel, who ran a 33-minute practice Friday, wanted to talk about today's game and as little as possible about Thursday's defeat to the conference-leading Penguins

"We're excited about tomorrow," the coach said. "We don't have a lot of games left. Our window of opportunity is good now. It helps your focus. It helps a lot of things. It enables you to stay on task, stay on the game."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2013 C3

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