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Jokinen sparks checking line

Kane, Setoguchi join effort to limit Isles' biggest guns

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Kathy Kmonicek / The Associated Press

Andrew MacDonald (right) of the New York Islanders shoves Winnipeg Jets forward Bryan Little into the boards in the first period of Wednesday's night's game in Uniondale, N.Y.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- It's often the no-glory, no-win situation but veteran Winnipeg Jets centre Olli Jokinen has turned it into a winning week.

Jokinen and regular wingers Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi have drawn the assignment this week to skate against their opponents' high-end players.

On Monday, it was Patrik Elias, Jaromir Jagr and Dainius Zubrus.

On Wednesday, the challenge was John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Tomas Vanek most of the evening.

Tavares had a goal and an assist on Wednesday but the Jets and in particular Jokinen's line did enough to slow them to provide Winnipeg's winning edge.

"It was a matchup they were at ease with and it was a matchup I was happy with as well," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "I thought Jokinen's line was a line that can check and produce offence. I thought they did a good job against that line. Tavares is a very dangerous player.

"They can do some things and he scored a goal for them as well."

All in a day's work, Jokinen suggested after the game.

"We had to defend well," he said. "They're world-class players, all those guys. We got the win so we can move on. This is a good thing."

Does he like this assignment?

"Yeah, I did that in Calgary for a couple of years," Jokinen said. "That was a role I had in the last couple of games. He's been using our line a little bit in that role.

"I think we've got a solid four lines and any line is capable of playing against anyone. You've just got to beware of who you play against. It's tough to do matchups anyway on the road but we believe we have four lines that can play against anyone.

"It's just the last couple of games it's my line."

The line came out even on the night, and Setoguchi, with the eventual winning-goal was a plus-one.

Jokinen was far more concerned with the points than the head-to-head battle.

"It's good. We've got to keep winning," he said. "This is a tough conference we're in. This game, we can enjoy this for a couple more hours but tomorrow is a new day, a Thanksgiving day and we need a good practice and to get ready for the early game in Philly."

One of Jokinen's favourite topics is confidence -- he's mostly of the opinion that every NHL player is a good one, and has no reason not to be confident.

"You've got to go day by day and game by game in this league," he said Wednesday, asked if his team is building in this way. "If there was anyone lacking confidence, hopefully this gives them some confidence.

"I think overall we should be confident enough every night.

"Last couple of games we've been taking that step; we've been defending pretty well. Obviously our goalie's been playing well, too. Al (Montoya) made some huge saves tonight."

-- -- --

Asked about an offensive contribution from defensive defenceman Mark Stuart, Noel used it to point out another positive.

His fourth line contributed a goal.

The game's opening score came from an offensive-zone faceoff won by James Wright that went to Stuart.

"The line of Wright, (Chris) Thorburn and (Eric) Tangradi on an offensive-zone faceoff and managed to win the puck back and Stuart gets the goal," the coach said, clearly pleased, since it was Wright's first point of the year and Tangradi has the only goal scored by the trio so far.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 28, 2013 D2

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