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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets show definite signs of progress

Wheeler attributes improvement to continuity

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It was big. It was dramatic. And it could come to represent a massive growth for the Winnipeg Jets.

But if you're looking for some sort of larger meaning to the Jets 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night, you won't find the answer being spit out anywhere in the team's dressing room.

Here's Blake Wheeler when asked what the victory represents to a franchise pushing to establish some sort of identity.

"It gives us our second win of the year, no more, no less," said Wheeler with a shrug. "It is what it is: It was a big win, there's no questioning that.

"I'm not going to downplay that because we wanted to come in and win this game and be a really good team in our building and we accomplished that.

"But there's no reason to start organizing a parade."

Fair enough. But over the last three games the Jets have shown some layers to their game and some definite progress in areas that were major flaws a year ago.

And that's got to count for something.

"We're addressing the things that were our shortcomings last year," Wheeler said. "You look at our road trip (a shootout loss to Boston, followed by a win in Washington on Monday-Tuesday) and the back-to-backs were a big issue for us last year. Playing on the road was a big issue for us last year and falling behind and not being able to come back was an issue as well.

"We're showing that we've learned some lessons in the last year. The most important thing is everyone is buying into what the coaches are saying. It doesn't matter what the talent level is on a team. When you have a group of guys buying into the same concept, you become a real tough team to play against."

Again, the Jets know it's early and are trying to keep a lid on treating each game like it's life or death -- even in a shorter season. But they are also not hiding their belief that some continuity in management and in the room is a key factor in a 2-1-1 start.

"That's big," said Wheeler. "You can't underestimate it. Look at the best teams in the league: Their coaches have been there a long time and that's no mistake.

"There's a familiarity. There's an expectation now coming from both sides -- from the players and the coaches -- of each other. And when there's that give and take and trust between the two, then you can really get everyone pushing in the same direction."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPEdTait

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2013 C5

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