Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New line like B's in a pod

Burmi, Blake and Bryan click against Panthers

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RALEIGH, N.C. -- Is he the answer, a Band-Aid or just another question mark for the Winnipeg Jets?

Alexander Burmistrov isn't sure, but he'd sure like to get the chance to return to his start-of-season form, when he had nine points in the first nine games.

Burmistrov was an answer of sorts on Saturday night, when the team's frantic, even desperate search for a line solution reached a critical point.

Top-line scorer Evander Kane, who leads the team in goals with 18, was out. On his third stab at finding a replacement to go with Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler, Jets coach Claude Noel pushed the right button, however temporarily, with Burmistrov.

Bryan, Blake and Burmi -- three B's in a pod -- delivered an all-important goal from Burmistrov's stick just 6:15 from the end of regulation to force the game with the Florida Panthers to overtime.

It's the kind of impact action that the line must continue tonight as the 22-20-6 Jets move into RBC Center to face the Carolina Hurricanes (6 p.m. CT, TSN Jets, TSN 1290).

After Saturday's miserable start, the Jets' comeback for a point in the standings was a psychological boost for both the team and a young, 20-year-old forward who made no secret of having felt lost in recent weeks.

"I feel good about my third period," Burmistrov said after Eric Fehr and Antti Miettinen before him on that line didn't inspire the coach. "I feel better. I play better. In the last 20 games, I have not shown my game. I know everybody, coaching staff, they are disappointed about me, how I play right now.

"I think so because they know how I can play. I've showed that. I think I showed a more offensive game tonight and will try to be better."

Burmistrov, now long removed from a big tease of the first 10 games, had contributed no points in the 11 games prior to Saturday, including two when he was a healthy scratch.

It's been the classic chicken and egg lately -- to play better you need more ice time but to get more ice time you have to play better.

He was reduced to less than 12 minutes in Thursday's win over Buffalo and was going along for less Saturday when Noel turned to him.

Burmistrov started with 2 minutes 52 seconds in the first period, with four shifts. It expanded to 4:08 in the second, on the ice five times, then mattered most in the third, with 8:38 of ice in 10 shifts.

"I like when I play a lot," Burmistrov said. "It keeps me moving, keeps my legs moving all the time. Sometimes when you play one shift in five minutes, your legs go down.

"In the third period, I played every two shifts, a lot of time on the ice, and that helps me. I'm in motion all the time and I feel like I'm back in the first 10 games. I felt like that in the third period."

Burmistrov beat Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen with a short, hard shot off the midsection and the relief was obvious.

"It's a lot of emotion," he smiled. "Tie the game, that's a very important goal for us. It's good we didn't stop playing. We kept playing, pressured their net, helped us tie the game, get a point."

Burmistrov said his unsatisfactory recent weeks have not been easy mentally but he's had a few key people propping up his spirits.

"There are a lot of guys; (Chris) Thorburn has been really good with me," Burmistrov said. "He's always trying to keep me positive, laughing with me. And everybody in the room, the coaches Pascal (Vincent) and Charlie (Huddy) all the time talk to me. They try to get me going and to stay positive."

Burmistrov said he has no illusions about taking Kane's spot on the line permanently.

"This is tough," he said. "Kaner, Litts, Wheeler have a very good line. "I'm not really trying to get Kaner's spot because they play good, they help the team."

But it's clear somebody's got to do this job in the interim.

"If he will be for a while out, I will try to play like him and score goals," Burmistrov said. "If I play all the time, helps me be energized."

NOTES: Neither Kane nor injured defenceman Dustin Byfuglien accompanied the team on Sunday and there is no return date apparent for either player...When Noel decided on Burmistrov as his line solution for the third period, none of Eric Fehr, Chris Thorburn or Patrice Cormier saw the ice in the final period.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

'I thought that Burmistrov seemed to be the fit there. The Little line looked like they were bogged down. They were working and trying but things just weren't going. This is what happens when you lose the person you had, and when you keep changing wingers, there's no continuity, either. Somewhere in there you have to decide, do you stick with it? How much time do you give it? After a while, you've got to see a little bit more. If you don't, somebody help us here'

 

-- Jets coach Claude Noel, on moving Burmistrov to a line with Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 23, 2012 C3

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