Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Watching playoffs from the couch hard for those who've never made it

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It can be as jarring as a stick across the lips. And just as painful, too.

And if it hasn't already, the reality of another spring without playoff hockey is going to hit the Winnipeg Jets hard -- especially those, such as Bryan Little, who have never appeared in a post-season contest.

So, then, this simple question was put to Little on Tuesday: Do you ever dream of playing in a playoff game?

"Every summer when I'm watching it at home," began Little, as the Jets opted to work out off the ice rather than practise. "I've been in this organization a long time and I've watched a lot of playoffs from the couch. It's definitely not the funnest thing to do."

Little will play in his 485th career NHL game Thursday against the Boston Bruins, all with the Atlanta Thrashers/Jets organization.

And his career playoff total? A big, fat zero.

It's the same for Zach Bogosian, Grant Clitsome, Toby Enstrom, Evander Kane, Al Montoya, Ondrej Pavelec, Anthony Peluso, Paul Postma, Zach Redmond, Chris Thorburn and James Wright.

"I probably won't watch (the playoffs) right away," said Little. "The first couple of rounds I'm usually still pretty upset and I don't feel like watching it. But once the Stanley Cup comes around I usually tune in. Living in Canada, it's kinda hard not to see it on TV once in awhile."

And so while the Jets wrap up their campaign with two more games, they do exit with many of the same frustrations they've experienced in years past. What Little and his teammates will cling to is the sense this club has built up its depth enough to have prospects push for work and the organization's desire to take the next step and morph into a playoff squad sooner or later.

"It's the talent... you see the young guys coming up that we have, they're great players," said Little. "Guys like Troubs and Scheifs (Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele); they could be key pieces and give us an extra push. Those guys have a year under their belt now and once they mature as players they're going to be great players if not superstars.

"I definitely feel like we're going in the right direction. It's about time, I think."

 

FUZZY FUTURE: Adam Pardy has given the Jets some decent play with an increased workload over the last few games, even flashing the occasional slick offensive dangle. Now the question is, do the Jets want to bring the veteran defenceman back next season?

In any case, what Pardy has been through -- bouncing from Calgary to Dallas to Buffalo to the Jets -- has given him a greater sense of appreciation for the game.

"I'm only 30," said Pardy, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer. "I've obviously thought about it. It's only natural for any player. There's been days where I thought, 'Geez, am I going to lace up the skates again? Is this the last year? Am I going to be in the minors? Am I going to be in Europe next year?'

"There was a lot of things that crept into my head this year. I sat down one day and said, 'You know what? I'm going to drive myself crazy... I can't keep thinking about this,' so I kind of just put it out of my head. Once the season is over we'll approach that when it comes. Right now it's about hockey. We were in a playoff push and nothing else mattered."

 

ONE MORE LOOK, MAYBE TWO: Jets coach Paul Maurice did not speak to the media on Tuesday, but expect goalie Michael Hutchinson to get at least one more start. Winnipeg has two games left -- Thursday at home against Boston, the team that drafted Hutchinson, and Friday in Calgary.

"(Monday) night was an amazing experience," said Hutchinson of his first pro start. "But now my focus is on getting my first win and helping this team win if I get this next game. As nice an experience as it was playing your first game, it was also a little bit of a distraction at the same time."

 

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 9, 2014 D2

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