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Thorburn's Pavelian point

Jets forward's spectacular goal subdues Sabres

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Ondrej Pavelec turned away 23 of 24 shots for the win.

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Ondrej Pavelec turned away 23 of 24 shots for the win.

It's got a certain ring to it, although it's shelf life might be short as hockey nicknames go.

Pavel Thorburn, anyone?

Winnipeg Jet winger Chris Thorburn, a man whose rugged game has endeared himself to fans as part of the GST checking line along with Tanner Glass and Jim Slater and whose self-deprecating sense of humour has made him a popular figure in the dressing room, flashed a ton of skill in Monday's 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., product used his speed to squeeze past Sabres defenceman Robyn Regehr and then beat goaltender Ryan Miller with a pretty goal that had teammate Blake Wheeler comparing the effort to Detroit Red Wings' wizard Pavel Datsyuk.

"That was Pavel Datsyuk right there," said Wheeler. "No joke."

"I'll take that compliment, but I'm a ways from that calibre," Thorburn said with a chuckle. "I got lucky, I gotta be honest. One, to get one step around the defenceman and then, two, I got a shot and then the rebound came right back on my stick. It's unfortunate for Miller but lucky for me.

"It shows a little bit of everything... my skating and my hands around the net. I'll chalk that one up as one of my nicer ones."

The goal, Winnipeg's third on the night, was Thorburn's fourth of the season and sealed the deal on a 5-1-2 homestand for the Jets. For his efforts, Thorburn was named the game's third star.

"Yeah, it was an important goal but our team played a solid 60 minutes. Right from puck drop we were good and an effort like this is something we can build off," said Thorburn.

"We wanted to finish off this homestand by making a statement and I think we've done that. Now it's time to go on the road and improve that part of our game."

THE DEBUT: Grant Clitsome made his Jets debut Monday night after being plucked off waivers by Winnipeg last week. He played 14 minutes and 30 seconds while paired with Ron Hainsey and, while he finished -1, showed some game. Earlier in the day he talked about trying to fit in to a squad that had so many pre-established relationships.

"It's a strange feeling coming in and being the only new guy," said Clitsome. " I've been on teams at Clarkson in school where a whole class was coming in, but to be the one new guy is different. The biggest thing is making sure you're talking with guys and making them feel comfortable with you just as much as you've got to feel comfortable with them. The guys here have done a great job with me making me feel part of the team and they've gone out of their way to talk to me and make me feel comfortable. It's been an easy transition so far."

Clitsome has spent his spare time going to movies, renting movies and going out to eat with teammates.

CODY RETURNS: Monday's game marked the return of Cody Hodgson, the former Manitoba Moose star who suited up for 52 games last year here, registering 17 goals and 13 assists. Hodgson, the first-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks who was dealt at the NHL trading line for Zack Kassian, first played for the Moose in 2008-09 in their run to the Calder Cup final.

"I lived downtown and seeing the rink and ol' building brings back good memories," said Hodgson. "Going to the finals a few years ago here was a good experience."

Monday's game was Hodgson's fourth as a Sabre. And while he has yet to register a point, he has worked well on the Sabres' second line with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford.

"Cody has played really well for us," said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. "He's played well away from the puck, he's been in on a lot of chances with a lot of good opportunities. That line has played very well for us and it's given us a little bit of a different look and the more he gets comfortable playing and playing with the guys he's playing with and them getting used to some of the small plays he makes in tight areas, the opportunity should go up and the production should be there."

QUOTABLE: Here's Ruff when asked about the Sabres' recent turnaround, a complete reversal of an ugly stretch in early January that saw them seemingly disappear from the playoff picture:

"It beats the hell out of losing, I can tell you that. I've always said if you can get through the tough times it should make you a better team. Some guys are playing a lot more attention to the small details of the game and right now those details make a difference."

JETCETERA: Zach Bogosian's status for games later this week in Vancouver and Calgary won't be known likely until Wednesday, but it's unlikely he'll accompany the team out west... Andrew Ladd opened the scoring for the Jets, his 50th as a Thrasher/Jet. It was the seventh time in the last eight games Winnipeg has opened the scoring. Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2012 D3

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