Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wheeler trying to boost Jets' morale

Stop moping, start playing, forward says

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IN case anyone has the wrong idea, the Winnipeg Jets want you to know that during their last week at home, in which they lost all three games they played, they didn't have a whole lot of fun.

"It's never enjoyable when you lose," Jets coach Claude Noel said Monday, the morning after another disappointment, this one a 3-2 setback against the Boston Bruins. "Players care about winning. I think it shows. It's just something that comes with the life we're in. There's not much you can do. You just try to control your situation.

"Our situation is to try to get the morale up and the players to know what they have to do. They're hard on themselves."

Getting the morale up was exactly what Jets right-winger Blake Wheeler chose as part of his routine Monday, both on the ice for a 35-minute practice and afterwards in the locker-room.

"It's not that we're not trying or (don't) want to get the job done," Wheeler said, launching into his analysis of what's going on with the slumping team. "I think we're just suffocating ourselves with all the expectations and not getting the job done.

"At some point you've got to say, 'Screw it,' and forget all that, that outside influence and the stuff that we feel from the inside as well and just go out there and play the game because we're a good enough team to win games. We've shown it.

"The difference is, I think, that we're overthinking it right now."

He mentioned "outside influences." Some reporters wondered if this was another way to blame media.

"Maybe we don't read or listen or watch but we talk to you guys every day and we answer the questions and that's part of the job," Wheeler said. "I'm not saying we don't deserve to be criticized. We're not holding our end of the bargain here and that's why we're feeling the effects from that.

"When you have high expectations from that and you don't live up to them, you start to get down on yourself and confidence is sometimes a fragile thing. Even sometimes when you feel like you're trying hard and working hard, sometimes it's a little bit different than when you're not thinking and you're just confident and go out there and play the game and having fun."

And so Wheeler has clearly decided to call a halt on gloominess.

"That's what I'm getting back to," he said. "You go out there with a grimace on your face every day and you hate your life, stuff like that, nothing's going to change no matter how bad you want to go out there and win games and get the job done, you can't do it. This is too tough a business, too tough a game, to not go out there to try to enjoy it."

The new morale officer didn't find any argument with the team captain, Andrew Ladd, as the Jets prepared to begin their season-longest five-game road trip tonight in Buffalo.

"We don't have the time to feel sorry for ourselves," Ladd said. "We've got to find a way to turn this thing around and the best way to do that is to play the way we need to, come up with a good effort in the next game."



PP, PK both MIA C4


Time to pull trigger on a shakeup? C3


Rosters for game in Buffalo tonight C3


NHL Report C8,9

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 19, 2013 C1


Updated on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 7:58 AM CST: Add picture.

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