Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Playoff-tested Kings stiff challenge for Winnipeg

L.A. adds Gaborik to help spark offence

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The non-event of the 2014 NHL trade deadline has come and gone for the Winnipeg Jets and tonight they hope to resume a more normal kind of existence with another scheduled home game against the Los Angeles Kings.

After Tuesday night's nervous-looking 3-2 overtime loss to the also-ran New York Islanders, tonight's contest against the playoff-bound Kings could be more of a comfort zone for the Jets.

It seems odd, but on Tuesday head coach Paul Maurice said he found his team more than willing in focus, awareness and desire but when it came to moving feet and other body parts, the Jets were uptight, possibly nervous and partially paralyzed by self-imposed pressure to keep their good run going against a team well below them in the standings.

The Kings, the 2011-12 Stanley Cup champs and nine points higher than Winnipeg today, won't provide the same view.

"We'll talk about today an assessment of the specifics of our game that we need to get better and we'll ask the question, 'Why did it look like that?' " Maurice said, his record now 11-3-2 since taking control in mid-January. "And then you go back and say, 'What do you know about your hockey team from the games I've been here? What impresses me the most?' For me, it's been the compete. They've just come out and played so very, very hard on every shift, every play. Then we got into a game where I think we saw ourselves with the puck and what are we going to create and take it to this team in an offensive manner? And that set us back a little bit in the game.

"We learned some things about our team, mentally how to go into each game, how to approach game. It's funny when we talk about the pressure. Why would there be more pressure in that game than in the one prior, going into Nashville, or you've got Phoenix (last Thursday)? But that's the nature of this, the expectation that we should be able to beat that team because we put the names on the board and we've decided that we're a better hockey club. And that's dealing with pressure.

"I would say we've dealt with pressure exceptionally well. It's just a different kind of pressure that you have to deal with -- come out and play your game."

With 19 games to go, the Jets have 67 points and are one point back of the eighth-place Dallas Stars in the Western Conference.

As of today, Los Angeles, at 76 points, was the third automatic playoff qualifier from the Pacific Division and ranked sixth in points in the conference.

At the deadline Wednesday, the Kings added scoring forward Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets. L.A. is one of the West's lowest-scoring teams. Only Nashville, Vancouver and Calgary have scored fewer goals than the Kings this season.

 

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2014 D2

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