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Long and winding road brings Meech home

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IT took awhile -- much, much longer than he had planned -- but Derek Meech has finally made his Winnipeg Jets home debut.

And the road he travelled to get here, well, it's featured more than its share of potholes and craters.

"It's been a little while," Meech said Tuesday with a grin. "I kinda had to think about that, too. It was a 'Is this the first game?' kinda thing.

"I played in Ottawa and Toronto last year and then injured myself.

"It's been pretty difficult, you could say."

Yeah, you could say that. And that was a theme, unfortunately, for the 28-year-old Winnipegger that repeated itself over and over again in Year 1 of the Jets' rebirth. Meech twice blew out his knee and then, just when he was ready to showcase his readiness last fall the lockout interrupted his career again.

"Obviously, the lockout didn't help and not having a training camp to show what you could do," Meech said. "But I'm playing hockey for a living. It's something I love to do. I'm just focused on going out, having fun and trying to be as consistent as possible."

And to his everlasting credit, not once did Meech do the 'Oh, woe is me' thing.

"Why? What's the point? If you get to a point where you're just feeling sorry for yourself, you're just wasting energy and it's not contributing anything positive to your game," he said. "This game is 90 per cent mental and if you don't have that good mindset and battle through these things then you're not going to succeed."

 

BURMI BENCHED: It was the hot topic for much of Tuesday, exploding all over Twitter and Jet-themed chat rooms. Jets head coach Claude Noel opted to bench a struggling Alex Burmistrov Tuesday night, inserting Chris Thorburn in his place.

Noel, when pressed for the reasoning behind the benching, would bite after Tuesday's game-day skate, saying only: "He's been OK. I like Alexander. He's a good player. He can be a real good player."

That hardly represents a condemnation of the play of the 21-year-old, who has three goals and seven points playing primarily on the Jets' second line this season. Later, when asked if the TV shot that caught Burmistrov laughing on the bench during a game on the recent road trip indicated he had some maturing to do, Noel said: "I'll just put it this way: I'd sooner keep my thoughts to myself on those things. I'll let you make the assessment on what you think of it. I have my thoughts, but I don't want to share that with you guys."

 

SHOOTOUT TRICKSHOT: Kaspars Daugavins' shootout move from Monday's game against Boston -- the Ottawa Senators' forward jabbed the toe of his stick onto the puck and attacked with what looked like a ringette move -- was a talker at the MTS Centre Tuesday, as well as around the NHL.

A sampling of reactions:

Toronto goalie James Reimer: "I thought Rask made a great save on it, that's a tough play for a goaltender. It's interesting. Personally, you start to wonder sometimes if that's hockey any more. I'm not sure what it is. Who knows what's coming next?"

Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec: "If it's legal or not legal, that's not a question for me."

Jets' winger Blake Wheeler: "I think it's cool. It's different and I'm all for it. The goalie's pads are so big anyway, we need some kind of advantage. If it's creativity, I'm all for it."

Jets centre Olli Jokinen: "I don't have that trick in my toolbox.

"I think it would have been a very wise play if he would have scored."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

<h4>Lions and Gophers and Buckeyes, oh my!</h4>
<p><strong>THURSDAY -- GIRLS SEMIFINALS<br /></strong>Oak Park Raiders vs. Sisler Spartans 6 p.m.<br />Glenlawn Lions vs. Miles Macdonell Buckeyes 8 p.m.    <br /><br /><strong>FRIDAY -- BOYS SEMIFINALS</strong><br />Sisler Spartans vs. Kelvin Clippers 6 p.m.<br />Garden City Fighting Gophers vs. Sturgeon Heights Huskies 8 p.m.</p>
<p><strong>MONDAY --FINALS</strong><br />Girls Championship Final 6 p.m.<br />Boys Championship Final 8 p.m.</p>
<p>All games will be held at the University of Manitoba Investors Group Centre, and televised on Shaw TV. Tickets are $5 for the semi-finals and $7 for the final matches, and a tournament pass is available for $10.</p>

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 13, 2013 D4

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