Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'We're still in this': Ladd

Jets talking bravely as playoff hopes fade quickly

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Nobody would have expected any different from the Winnipeg Jets, frankly, the day after having another dagger jammed into their playoff hopes.

One by one they emerged from meetings/workouts Thursday to stare into the bright TV lights and answer questions about their recent 0-2-3 swoon that has dropped them out of the Western Conference playoff picture.

And they brought about as much joy to the media inquisitions as if they were sitting down for a polygraph test.

So the general consensus -- spit out en masse as if it had been rehearsed -- went something like this:

Forget about yesterday and focus on tomorrow... Like the way they are playing... Goals will come... Not being swallowed up by the moment.

None of which, of course, is any surprise.

Part of the Jets' issue right now as they stare down a final 15-game stretch that will determine their playoff fate is convincing themselves they can get up off the mat, get back into this fight and start connecting with some haymakers.

And, simply put, that's what the Jets are going to need right now -- a series of knockout punches, one after the other -- because they are seriously behind on the scorecards.

"We're still in this," said captain Andrew Ladd. "We have a job to do and the prospect of trying to win games to make the playoffs is exciting. You use that."

And they use this: in their last two games -- an OT loss in Denver and Wednesday's shootout loss to Vancouver -- have featured some of the team's best work this season, even if the result was two points, not four.

"If this is rock bottom, it certainly isn't any reason to go jumping off a cliff," reasoned forward Blake Wheeler. "I think our game is better than our results have been. That's a positive you can take from this. Certainly we're at the point in the year where it's all about getting results but I think the way we've played, especially over the last few games, has been an improvement. You just keep building on that and the results will follow.

"(Wednesday) night a guy bats it out of the air to tie the game and we lose in a shootout. Did we deserve to lose that game? Well, that's just one of those things. I like where we are right now and the direction our team is heading of being just a big, fast, physical team that is tough to play against.

"If we keep doing that and we stay with that we're going to get the results were looking for."

That's the positive spin and it's one this team has to take right now. And so there was also talk Thursday about the better foundation and structure they are working from, about how a team needs to fight through stretches like this to become hardened.

The coaching staff doesn't want them to shrink from these moments, but rise up to them. Problem is, the schedule is shrinking but the gap between the Jets and a playoff spot isn't.

"I want them to take it all in, too," said coach Paul Maurice. "Shutting it out only takes you so far. Taking all the pressure in and then being able to handle it, that's where you grow as a team and as an individual player.

"You handle the pressure."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 14, 2014 0

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