Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Loads of love follow Jets

Fans jumping on bandwagon coast to coast

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CALGARY -- The phenomenon that has been the Winnipeg Jets has caused an amazing reversal of form in many quarters around the NHL.

It's a veritable bandwagon of love, and from coast to coast.

On Thursday, for instance, the Vancouver Canucks put former captain Trevor Linden on their centre-ice video board during a TV timeout, where he was asked about the cross-country buzz surrounding the Jets.

Linden, the former NHLPA president, was effusive in his praise, a marked contrast to his cold, callous remarks in the 1990s about the Manitoba capital and its small hockey market.

Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla has never been known to diss Winnipeg, and he certainly was on the bandwagon Friday morning before the Flames' first game against the new Jets.

"I think it's just being more another Canadian team," Iginla said, when asked about the high anticipation for the Jets-Flames game. "We've watched highlights of them this year. They've had what looks like a pretty exciting first year in Winnipeg and (are) right in the playoff hunt.

"It's probably a rivalry that could grow over the years, being that it's another Canadian team. We always like to beat other Canadian teams and vice versa, and the fans start to get into it from the different cities. You see the different jerseys, and I imagine that will grow over time."

Iginla said he had no issues with seeing droves of Jets fans in their colours at the Scotiabank Saddledome Friday night.

"I imagine this is in any Canadian city, right across," he said. "I don't know how many Winnipeg fans will be here, but I imagine there will be some, a decent amount, and (that) will probably grow over the years. It's fun. It's part of hockey, the Canadian rivalries, and this is for us bigger than that, and for them, too, to make that playoff push."

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The Flames have had so many injuries late in the season -- seven players are on the injured-reserve list -- they have recalled a whole line from their AHL team in Abbotsford.

Former Moose skater Guillaume Desbiens, Krys Kolanos and Greg Neimsz were promoted, and because the Flames are in an official injury emergency, they have also recalled Sven Baertschi from Portland of the WHL, their first-round pick from last summer's draft, 13th overall. .

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Desbiens, a fan favourite in Winnipeg because of his rugged style and scoring ability, played 239 games in antlers between 2008 and 2011.

He signed with Calgary's organization last summer and has been recalled to the Flames twice in recent weeks.

"It's very exciting," Desbiens said Friday. "You never know if you're going to have another chance to play in the NHL, and statistically, I wasn't having the best season in Abbotsford (just two goals), but in the last few weeks, I was playing a lot better.

"They're asking me to be more physical, and when a couple of guys went down, I got the call.

"It's been going pretty good here. I want to help the team make the push for the playoffs."

Desbiens said he's had nothing but enjoyment playing for intense Flames coach Brent Sutter.

"He's hard to play for, but at the same time, since I got here, we've had so many games in not a whole lot of nights," he said. "He's been pretty good. Even when we've lost, he's just, 'Hey, stick with it, stay with it and we're going to get our points and make our push.'

"He's been very, very positive. Some guys say he's hard to play for, but I haven't experienced that. He's been really good."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 10, 2012 C3

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