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No easing on the throttle

Tonight's tilt will see intensity continuing, Jets promise

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Since Friday was not the endgame and they're still outside the playoff line in the NHL's Eastern Conference, the Winnipeg Jets can ill afford to be looking at their next game or opponent lightly.

And the Jets seem to know it.

After engaging in their daily workout at the MTS Iceplex on Saturday, the talk was all about making tonight's game at the MTS Centre against the Carolina Hurricanes every bit as intense and important as Friday's high-drama 3-2 win over the eighth-place Washington Capitals.

Head coach Claude Noel, for instance, said he will have no time for anything less than the team's best, much of which was on display in the Friday victory that brought the Jets to 76 points and within two of the conference's last playoff position.

The Canes won Saturday to get to 71 points.

Noel said he knows the fans won't take any version of a night off. "They (the fans) are charged up all the time," Noel said. "It's hard to believe they'll be much more charged up tomorrow than they were for that Washington game. I think it'll be the same type of atmosphere. I don't know if it'll be that level of Washington, but would it help? It would help because I think they'd be deeply disappointed if we don't start very well. And I'll be right there with them, pounding on our guys."

Is the coach expecting a letdown? "I'm not expecting one," he said.

And to help avoid one? "You bring it up," he said. "You mention it to them and then you keep them on a short leash.

"If they don't start the game the way you want, you don't play. Right off the bat, the start. You don't wait. You can't sit and wait. Let's go, you've got a game. If you're not ready to play, I'll go with nine forwards, or six forwards if you want. Or four Ds. I'm not going to ease into it."

Noel, however, sounded more confident than threatening, likely because he's starting to get a pretty good feel for his players.

"In my mind, you handle it the exact same way," Jets left-winger Tanner Glass said about going from Washington to Carolina as opponents. "I didn't change anything for the Washington game and my preparation stays the same for Carolina.

"Obviously there's a danger of having a letdown game, but we've talked about that. All you can do is make sure everybody's conscious of it and be prepared for Carolina."

Jets defenceman Mark Stuart said Saturday he's got little or no time for the hypotheticals of what could go wrong.

"We need these points, desperately," Stuart said, asked about potential letdowns. "We keep saying this is our playoffs. I don't see that. (Friday) was a team we needed (to gain) points on, a team we're trying to catch. At the end of the day, there are two points and it'll be the same tomorrow night. It's just as big."

The Jets, 23-10-4 on their own ice, take their show on the road next week to Pittsburgh, Washington and Nashville. That rematch against the Capitals next week in D.C. looms as large as the Friday-night game just played.

"There's huge risk in (looking at it), but I don't look at it at all," Glass said. "I only answer these questions because you ask me. For me, the next game is Carolina. That's all I'm focused on. I couldn't have told you who we played after that. Even last night, I was asking the trainers, 'Who's next?' "

Added Stuart: "You can't look back from the end of the season and say I wish I would have concentrated on that Carolina game a little more, stop looking toward Washington. As cliché as it is, it really is one game at a time, because that is how it is in the playoffs."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 18, 2012 B3

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