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'We've got to learn quick'

Jokinen laments lost opportunity in Florida

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Winnipeg's Olli Jokinen trips over Florida's Scottie Upshall Thursday.

J PAT CARTER / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Winnipeg's Olli Jokinen trips over Florida's Scottie Upshall Thursday.

SUNRISE, Fla. -- They are the kind of brutally honest state-of-the-union speeches Olli Jokinen would rather not have to make over and over again.

But there was the veteran Winnipeg Jets' Finn -- a man trying to squeeze in at least one more playoff appearance before the sun sets on his career -- holding court again in an empty locker-room Thursday night following a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers.

"The battle level was missing," said Jokinen, who scored his seventh goal of the season and, along with linemate Devin Setoguchi, was one of only two Jets with a positive plus-minus. "(Florida) worked hard. But we had three days to prepare for this game and we weren't ready. They played well but, at the same time, we had a pretty good game against New York... we couldn't bring what we brought Monday night and in this league once the puck is dropped the record means nothing.

"Every team wants to win games and every team works hard and if your battle level is not there, you're not going to win. That's the bottom line."

The Jets, 3-1 on this road trip heading into a contest against a horrible Panthers squad, have instead tumbled back to .500 with the loss. And that kind of effort/result pushed them further away from the playoff discussion where a win might have made them relevant again.

Missed opportunity? Hell, yeah.

"Absolutely," said Jokinen. "Hopefully, this is not going to bite us at the end of the year. We've been fighting back and going into this game we were one game over .500... this was a chance to take a step forward.

"Everybody talks about the trip, that we're up 3-2 now, but you can't look at it that way. You can't look at it that you've got a six-game trip and you've got to try and win three or four games. You've got to be ready to play every single night. It doesn't matter what time the game is or where the game is going to be played. You have to go day by day. You can't get ahead of yourself and you've just got to be ready to play and we weren't ready to play. They were ready to play and they wanted to win more than we did and everybody saw what happened."

When asked if, in a nutshell, that inconsistency is this team, Jokinen dove into the math and the probabilities of making the post-season given their record at the 30-game mark.

"We've got to learn and we've got to learn quick," he said. "We've got to fix that fast because... I told you guys three or four weeks ago you've got to be 15-16-17 games over .500 to get in the playoffs. We're .500 so... just do the math. You've got to win 70 per cent of the games to get in and so every game is really important.

"It showed tonight that if you're not ready to battle and not willing to play and stick with the game plan that we've been doing you're not going to win. It was pretty evident tonight."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2013 C7

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