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Repentent Enstrom ready to move on

Miscue led to Kings' winner, but D-man not about to dwell

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NO point beating around the bush -- Toby Enstrom got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and it was still written all over his face Friday.

In a 1-1 game with the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night at the MTS Centre, the veteran defenceman received a pass in front of the Kings bench and was trying to relay the puck into the centre circle for a cutting teammate, Olli Jokinen.

Instead, L.A.'s Mike Richards stepped up and helped himself, rushed the puck back over the Jets' blue-line and blasted a top-shelf shot for the eventual game-winning goal.

"There's not really a lot to say about it," a repentant Enstrom said Friday. "I mean, it wasn't a good play. It ends up in our own net. But you know what, you've got to move on. We've got important games coming up so I have to put that behind me.

"I mean, L.A. Kings are a good team. They won the Cup a couple of years ago. They sit back and wait for opportunities and they take what they get and they're really good at it.

"That's how they win most of their games."

'There's not really a lot to say about it. I mean, it wasn't a good play. It ends up in our own net. But you know what, you've got to move on'

-- Jets blue-liner Toby Enstrom

Enstrom, because of his experience, quickness and generally good puckhandling, seemed to get some measure of absolution from his coach on Friday.

Of course those plays into the middle against a defensively stingy team are going to be costly.

But here's what head coach Paul Maurice had to say about the matter and the bigger picture ahead.

"I'd like our defencemen to see something other than rear ends blasting sideways through the neutral zone when they get the puck," Maurice said Friday.

"It was either kick that thing down the strong side and we'll try to chase it down but... we like to think we're a little better team than that. I'd like our defencemen to feel a little bit more supported."

Enstrom vowed he won't wilt because of Thursday's miscue.

"Those are the games, and the ones coming up, those are the ones you've got to love," he said. "We're fighting for a playoff spot and I think we'll stay confident in what we're doing and I feel like the last month, month and a half we've been playing really well and we just have to keep building on the stuff we've been doing well and focus on our own game.

"You can't look too far ahead but you can't look back either, this time of year. "

The smallish blue-liner said he feels energized out of the Olympic break, having declined an opportunity with the Swedish national team some months ago.

While the team was off, he went back to Sweden to spend time with his family and to rest.

-- -- --

Plain and simple, Winnipeg Jets centre Jim Slater said he is ready for more. More action, more faceoffs, more involvement.

The 31-year-old said Friday he'll have no trouble ramping things up since returning from sports hernia surgery that kept him out of 52 games.

"I think any player is ready for more ice or action," Slater said after Friday's practice. "That's what you want to do, you want to play. But right now my role is to anchor that fourth line, get the pucks in deep and have a good forecheck. I thought we did that last night pretty well."

So far, Slater has played five minutes, 44 seconds, then 8:55, 9:04 and 7:18, mainly on that fourth line but also with some penalty killing.

"It's playoff hockey," he said. "It's picked up quite (a few) notches since I last put the skates on. Somebody said it the other day, it was perfect, that it felt like stepping onto an expressway the first couple of games, everything was going so fast."

He's over the injury, he said.

"It was different in the first two games, I was still a little timid, I'll be honest with you," Slater said. "But after the Nashville game, I was still sore going into those (first two) games and I wondered if this was ever going to go away. But the last couple, going into the games, I haven't had soreness and I'm mentally stronger with it. I feel like I can keep going after it now and it's not going to hurt it."

And even better news, Slater is back showing he can be a help in the faceoff circle, where the Jets are the worst team in the NHL.

He's won 15 of 16 draws in the last two games.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 8, 2014 C2

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