Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Refusing to roll over and accept futility

Re-energized Jets winning must-wins

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They were done. Another upstart slapped back down to Earth when the games got tougher and winning required a hardened approach. The Winnipeg Jets, so it appeared, were phoneys.

The NHL had taken notice of their uppity rise and put them to the test. The Jets came up lacking, losing five straight and apparently letting their season get away from them.

A six-game homestand was the only thing that stood between the Jets and another long summer filled with snide jokes about life in a reality show with a working title of Thrashers North. The Jets might gripe about changing the name, but only perception will turn that trick and a playoff berth will be the catalyst.

Three straight wins, however, in front of 15,004 True North Believers and the Jets are alive and well and once again pounding on the door.

Maybe they did too much damage during their lull to recover but we likely won't know that until this season's final days arrive.

The Jets put a 7-2 licking on the Florida Panthers last night and while they didn't get any help on the out-of-town scoreboard, they did serve notice they won't go away lightly. Say what you want about this team, but they haven't quit.

Winnipeg is clicking in a variety of ways right now, getting scoring from all over the lineup, solid and timely goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec and the blue-line seems to have come back to life under the improved play of Dustin Byfuglien.

The Jets should not lose either of their next two games against inferior competition in the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. If they do, they almost certainly end their chances.

No, it's become quite clear, Winnipeg must be perfect while playing in Winnipeg.

With each win the Jets, increase their probability of reaching the post-season. Going six for six on this homestand will put them within striking distance. In that light, the Jets are halfway home.

Maybe we'll look back at this latest surge as another tease that ended in empty promise. Or maybe this is the push that finally gets them over the top.

The time has arrived. The margin of error exhausted. It's pretty much win and get in for the Jets. Perhaps they can afford two more losses but it's more likely they only have room for one.

The longer the Jets put off burning the remaining passes they possess, the better their outlook gets.

There is no room for another stumble and the Jets are playing like they understand this.

Are they good enough to carry this off? We're gonna find out and we're gonna find out soon.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 12, 2013 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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