Back into the pressure cooker

Jets desperate for win against Canucks today

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White-knuckle time continues today for the Winnipeg Jets when they take on the Vancouver Canucks at the MTS Centre (2 p.m., TSN3, TSN 1290).

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/04/2015 (2793 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

White-knuckle time continues today for the Winnipeg Jets when they take on the Vancouver Canucks at the MTS Centre (2 p.m., TSN3, TSN 1290).

Both teams are in need of points in the tight Western Conference race for Stanley Cup playoff berths.

The Jets are at 90 points with five games to go, tied with the Los Angeles Kings and one point back of the Calgary Flames, who have played one more game. Winnipeg is ranked ninth in the conference today and one slot below the playoff line because the Kings — like every other rival — own the regulation and overtime wins tie-breaker against Winnipeg.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice said today that the Jets could have their No. 1 centre Bryan Little back in the lineup against the Rangers Tuesday.

The Canucks are at 95 points with four games to go and are second in the Pacific Division, but can’t afford much in the way of slip-ups.

Vancouver won both previous meetings between the teams this season, both in Vancouver and one in overtime. In both games the Jets held leads.

Jets coach Paul Maurice said Friday he sees today’s game as more of an even playing field.

“Five (games) in eight (days) both times we went in there on back-to-back,” he said. “And had the lead at both points in the game. You’d like to see a better push but the environment of this game I do think takes out a lot of that and evens that playing field out if everybody spends what they have.”

Maurice thinks the Jets have played better in their two most recent losses, 4-3 to Chicago here last Sunday and 3-2 to the New York Rangers on Tuesday, than in the five-game winning streak they took into Vancouver just 10 days ago.

“The last couple of years, we’ve been through a lot so I think this team can handle it,” said Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, today’s likely starter. “I think we are mentally strong and those were tough losses. We were there. It wasn’t like we lost 5-0. We were in the game. Some of the mistakes cost us the game.

“You’re not going to win all of them. I think we handled it pretty well, but we’ll see tomorrow.”

Maurice said the urgency of today’s game isn’t much different than in recent weeks.

“There isn’t until there is a must-win game and I don’t see how that’s going to change how hard you’re going to play,” he said.

One thing the Jets must adjust to today is the absence of defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, who’s been suspended by the NHL for four games.

Some of those key minutes will fall to Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba. Based on practice this week, it appears as if Jay Harrison will draw into the lineup.

“I don’t think it changes too much,” Myers said. “It may increase the workload for a bunch of different guys on the back end. It’s still the same focus, same mentality on what we have to do as a group. That may include some more minutes but it’s the same focus and intensity.”

Myers said the two recent losses revealed an area in which the Jets can improve, even though they weren’t off by much.

“I thought we did a lot of good things in those two games,” he said. “Where I think we could be better — it seemed like at the end of those games we tensed up a little bit. And I think we can in that situation where it’s a tie game going into the third period or the last 10 minutes, we know we have the confidence to pull games out.

“We just have to bring that belief on the ice. I expect guys to go all in here tomorrow, these last five games.”

The Jets are well-versed in the Canucks’ strengths, having fallen just short twice in Vancouver.

“I think we just have to be aware of their neutral-zone transition,” said centre Adam Lowry. “They started to get a lot of chances, especially that last game in the second period where we caused some turnovers and we weren’t tight and playing with close support in the neutral zone.

“They seemed to get that momentum for that last 10 minutes. It ended up being the difference in the game. Eddie Lack, he’s been playing terrific for them in the absence of Ryan Miller.”

Lowry said he wants to see his team use its cycle game, size and speed today.

“And get pucks to the net,” he said. “That’s one area for us to be successful, to score goals on the second and third opportunities.”

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

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