Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets' Silver Linings Playbook

Despite ugly losses, team still in 1st

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The sun did come up, the world did not end. And so it was in the immediate aftermath of having their rumps kicked in back-to-back losses that the Winnipeg Jets tiptoed around the wreckage searching for answers.

It began with coach Claude Noel's decision not to skate them into the ground, what with his team having just completed a five-games-in-seven-nights stretch. In fact, he suggested his troops get away from the microscope of analysis by going to a movie. Captain Andrew Ladd was going to spend his Saturday with his newborn son. Ron Hainsey spent Friday after the game watching golf on his PVR. Bryan Little was leaving his options open to just about anything except watching more hockey.

And the most common refrain from the Jets clubhouse was to not spend an inordinate amount of time beating themselves up repeatedly. They are still first in the Southeast Division at 16-14-2, after all, and still hold down the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

Just call it Silver-lining Saturday.

"The danger is dwelling on the negatives and letting that pull you down," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "You look at the big picture and we're still first in our division and we've done a lot of good things to put us in this spot. We've got to look at that and realize that we can do those things and we need to do those going forward.

"We've done the work to put ourselves in a good position here to control our own destiny in these last 16 games. That's something we talked about today. I believe in this group and I think everyone in here believes we have the players to do it. That's the great thing about playing every other day: you get the chance to get back on the horse and get another shot."

That next shot comes today, when the Tampa Bay Lightning arrive to wrap up the Jets' four-game homestand (7 p.m.; TSN Jets/TSN 1290). They'll then head to Raleigh, N.C., for a critical matchup with the Hurricanes on Tuesday, followed by a trip to Pittsburgh for a date with the Penguins on Thursday before the Canes are here next Saturday.

"We're trying to keep balance with things," Noel said. "We're trying to keep an even keel with things. We're sitting here in a decent position with 16 games to go and very much in control of our own destiny. We've got to produce and we all know that. Our focus is singular and just focusing on the day, (today's) the game and let's try to get it done with what we have."

There was talk about fatigue, but also the admission every team is battling that. Most of all there was a consensus to spend the day clearing their heads and resting and then coming back to work today with a renewed sense of purpose.

"The best thing we can do is not get negative and not start pointing fingers and trying to find problems," said Bryan Little. "The best thing to do is put it behind us and try and focus on winning (today). It affects you as much as you want it to. Obviously it's frustrating losing two games where we had a chance to get some ground and get four points, but there's nothing we can do now. There's no sense moping around about it.

"You can really sit and feel bad for yourself and feel sorry for yourself over how we played in the last couple of games. We've got to try to put that behind us and put all our effort and focus into (today). If we have a great game then everybody forgets about the last two games." Twitter: @WFPEdTait

After two...

THE Winnipeg Jets have hit the two thirds mark of their 2013 season -- 32 of 48 games played.

Here's a quick glance at what is in the rear-view mirror and what lies ahead:

Record: 16-14-2; first in Southeast Division, third in Eastern Conference

First third: 7-8-1

Second third: 9-6-1

What's left: 16 games: Home: 9/Road: 7 and seven vs. Southeast Division opponents.

Home record: 7-8; Road record: 9-6-2

Power play: 13.7 % (27th in the NHL*)

Penalty kill: 77.8 % (25th in the NHL*)

Leading scorer: Andrew Ladd: 14 G, 17 A, 31 pts in 32 GP

Most game-winning goals: Evander Kane, 4

Most minutes (average): Dustin Byfuglien has averaged 24 minutes 58 seconds of ice time per game

*Not including Saturday's action


--Ed Tait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 24, 2013 B3

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