A Little goes a long way

Jets No. 1 centre the difference in win over Yotes

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If this is the ailing Bryan Little — and keep in mind he’s about to get an all-star-break rest — then there ought to be enthusiasm ahead for Little and his Winnipeg Jets.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/01/2015 (2942 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If this is the ailing Bryan Little — and keep in mind he’s about to get an all-star-break rest — then there ought to be enthusiasm ahead for Little and his Winnipeg Jets.

Little clicked for his team-leading 18th goal of the season Sunday night and eventually made the difference by providing the only goal of the shootout as the Jets prevailed 4-3 via penalty shots over the Arizona Coyotes before another sellout of 15,016 at the MTS Centre.

“There’s leadership right there,” said Little’s coach Paul Maurice after the Jets completed a taxing 11-day stretch of schedule at 5-1-1. “That you would come to the game every night and think he’s feeling 100 per cent — certainly by the minutes the coach is playing him and knowing that he’s not practising — his play has actually gotten stronger in this stretch. He was really good in the last three or four games. That’s leadership.

John Woods / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Dustin Byfuglien (33) moves in to remove players from a pileup on Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (31) during the first period against the Arizona Coyotes in Winnipeg Sunday.

“He’s a quiet man. He’s not a rah-rah guy and he’s reluctant in front of the cameras and gives intelligent answers when he gets asked, but he’s a real strong leader in that room because he may well be the most consistent performer that I’ve seen since my time here.”

The Jets’ No. 1 centre is rarely seen outside of games these days, not even at morning skates. CSIS or the FBI would likely have trouble uncovering the root of his less-than-perfect health but he keeps on ticking.

In this seven-game stretch, Little produced three goals and six points, plus two shootout winners.

“Honestly, I’d rather be skating right now,” said Little, who seemed to have no difficulty handling his 22 minutes, 18 seconds of ice-time on Sunday. “I definitely feel a lot better when I’m skating, taking pre-game skates, but it’s getting better and it’s improving a lot so I’m looking to getting back into practice soon.”

 

The Standings

The victory, bumping the Jets to 25-14-8, lifts them to 58 points and into a third-place tie with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division. The Hawks have two games in hand, but it’s also just two points back of second-place St. Louis.

The Jets, simply, aren’t going away easily, even after this recent seven-in-11 assignment.

“I didn’t think that would necessarily be possible,” Maurice said about 5-1-1 in those seven games.

“We’ve been in a playoff spot since almost the start of the season, which has been good,” said Jets left-winger Evander Kane. “We know playing in the West you have to keep winning.

“So it doesn’t matter if you’re playing back-to-back nights, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing four in six, you have to keep winning no matter what your schedule is because every other team has the same thing in front of them.

“For us, it was just not having any real excuses and continuing to play the way we know how and bringing that compete to each and every game, whether it was on a back-to-back game or not.”

 

The Obstacle

Arizona, having lost four in a row heading into the MTS Centre, was also coming into the completion of its seventh back-to-back scenario of the season. Sunday’s game was the team’s fourth in six nights.

Though they tied it with late goals by Lauri Korpikoski and Tobias Rieder after the Jets had surged ahead on scores by Michael Frolik and Dustin Byfuglien, the Coyotes lost both ends of a back-to-back for the first time this season. Arizona had gained a split in all six of its previous pairs on consecutive days.

 

The Absent

The Jets went without left-winger Mathieu Perreault on Sunday. He’s sidelined likely through the all-star break after being cross-checked in the arm and back by Chicago’s Daniel Carcillo on Friday.

Carcillo was made to sit out Sunday and will likely have his hearing with the NHL department of player safety today.

The Jets, without Perreault, went zero for three on their power play on Sunday, as Kane took his spot on the Mark Scheifele line.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca.

History

Updated on Sunday, January 18, 2015 6:52 PM CST: Updates score

Updated on Sunday, January 18, 2015 7:48 PM CST: Updates score

Updated on Sunday, January 18, 2015 8:53 PM CST: Updates score

Updated on Sunday, January 18, 2015 9:26 PM CST: CP write-thru

Updated on Sunday, January 18, 2015 10:31 PM CST: Local write-thru

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