Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tailgating teams targeting Jets

Standings have changed but team's philosophy hasn't

  • Print

It's an important and valuable lesson for anyone racing headlong toward a destination: focus on what's ahead, of course. But always remember objects in the rear-view mirror may be closer than they appear.

Actually, for the Winnipeg Jets, check that: the objects in the rear-view mirror ARE exactly as close as they appear. In fact, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres -- considered fading blips in the Eastern-Conference playoff picture as recently as 10 days ago -- are back in the race and now tailgating the Jets' behinds like a NASCAR driver.

Yes, where last Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers was the next 'biggest game of the year,' the NHL playoff race is now so juicy and involves so many characters the focus has shifted to the Sabres, who face the Jets tonight at the MTS Centre.

The Sabres, fresh from a 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night in B.C., have now won three straight and are 6-2-2 in their last 10 to move to within two points of the Jets with a game in hand.

And the Lightning, who looked like a mess in a 4-3 loss to the Jets two weeks ago, have won four straight and are 7-3 in their last 10 and are also within two with a game in hand.

Ahead of the Jets is Florida, who won over Ottawa Sunday 4-2 to go four points up on Winnipeg.

"I don't look at anybody in the race," said Jets coach Claude Noel after Sunday's practice. "I don't target anybody, I don't look at anybody because this thing is just going to go day-to-day. It becomes a topic for you every day... 'Ooooo, maybe it's them. Oooo, maybe THEM. Where did they come from?' Where do you stop? It makes no difference really. We just have to win. You look at Ottawa, you look at Florida, you look at a lot of things but at the end of the day you're no farther ahead. You're still dealing with the same thing: you gotta win. So let's win.

"...It becomes about your will down the stretch. You have to really pour everything into what is on the ice."

After today's game against the Sabres, the Jets will face Western-Conference opponents in their next three -- next Thursday-Friday in Vancouver and Calgary before Dallas comes here -- and then finish the regular season with 11 of their final 12 against Eastern-Conference rivals, including seven versus Southeast Division opponents.

"There's a lot of teams that are playing pretty well right now and they're making headway on us," said Blake Wheeler. "The race is getting tight and there are a lot of teams putting their name in the hat right now.

"You can't get too worried about it. Teams are going to win, that's the nature of it. We just have to go out there and take care of business on our own each night."

Wheeler admitted he's watching a ton of hockey right now and checking the scores and standings often. But he hasn't started playing the game where he roots for one team over another in order to help the Jets' playoff chances for two reasons:

1. There's still too many teams in the race right now and; 2. That kind of math can make a guy's head hurt.

"That's too much," he said. "A week ago at this time we weren't talking about Buffalo or Tampa Bay and now they're right there. It's that time of the year where you've got to be aware of what's going on around you. At the same time, this doesn't matter if we don't win. If we're laying an egg and not taking care of business on our end, then teams can lose all they want, but we're not going to make the playoffs."

Just for the record, not EVERYBODY in Jetsville is all-consumed by the race. Veteran Kyle Wellwood doesn't watch a whole lot of TV and he and his fiancée spend most of their spare time with their 11-month old son. And so when he punches the clock at the rink, it's all hockey, all the time.

After that...

"Once I leave the rink, hockey is over," said Wellwood. "You get enough of it here, you look at the schedule and are focused on that. But when you leave here you don't want to care about it any more.

"When I was younger I guess it was more of a focus. But now that I'm a little older and I've been through it I know just to focus on your own team and getting us to the point where we can make it."

But don't let that answer fool you. Wellwood, like everyone wearing a Jets logo these days, plays the game for exactly these kinds of scenarios.

"All I know," he said with a grin, "is this next stretch is going to be a lot of fun." Twitter: @WFPEdTait

defenceman zach Bogosian is out, ex-moose Hodgson returns C3

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 5, 2012 C1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Winnipeg Police remove dumpsters from behind homeless shelter

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada goose makes takes flight on Wilkes Ave Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 Day goose a day challenge- Day 09- May 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(Standup photo)- Humming Around- A female ruby -throated hummingbird fly's through the bee bomb  flowers Friday at the Assiniboine Park English Garden- Nectar from flowers are their main source of food. Hummingbirds wings can beat as fast as 75x times second. Better get a glimpse of them soon the birds fly far south for the winter - from Mexico to South America- JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Sept 10, 2009

View More Gallery Photos


Do you plan to watch Saturday's boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google