Jets refuse to wave white flag despite setbacks
Head down to Nashville to begin three-game road trip
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/03/2017 (2087 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There may not be much more to say about their almost non-existent playoff hopes, but the Winnipeg Jets aren’t willing to declare surrender on the 2016-17 season.
The Jets, still smarting after a demoralizing 3-0 loss to the visiting Calgary Flames Saturday night, put in considerable time on the practice ice at the MTS Iceplex Sunday before boarding a flight for Nashville.
Winnipeg, losers of three straight and nine points out of the final wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference, kicks off a three-game road trip against the Predators Monday night.
And how was the mood in the locker room?
“I think it could be better,” said right-winger Patrik Laine. “It wasn’t the homestand we were looking for and we didn’t play like we wanted to play. But it’s a good thing that there’s always going to be a next game, so now we just need to be better and hopefully we get a couple of wins from the road trip.”
The Jets, with 13 regular-season games remaining, would need to come close to running the table for even a miracle shot at catching the eighth-place St. Louis Blues, who also have two games in hand.
Improvements to special teams play would be welcomed and Sunday’s focus was just that. The Jets are 3-for-22 (13.6 per cent) on the power play in their last five games and have gone 5-for-10 on penalty-killing situations in the last two games.
“It was less about the power play today and quite a bit more about the penalty kill,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice, whose club leads the NHL with the most short-handed situations (278), including a league-worst 78 times in the third period. “We used a bunch of different people. It’s just a bit of change, structure for us.”
Centre Adam Lowry would like to see better rhythm on the power play.
“I don’t think relaxing is the right word. I just think composure…” said Lowry. “It’s not necessarily about scoring goals — a good power play fails 75, 80 per cent of the time so you’ve gotta go out there and generate some shots. If you’re not scoring goals, at least generate some energy for the team.”
Lowry wasn’t willing to put losses to the San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Calgary out of his mind.
“You can’t just forget and move on, you’ve gotta look at those games and see what was the difference in those games,” said Lowry. “I think we liked the way we played against San Jose, we liked our start against Pittsburgh and we weren’t really happy with our effort last night against Calgary. There’s different areas in each game you’re going to want to look at an improve.”
Despite the gloomy outlook, Maurice liked what he saw during Sunday’s high-tempo workout and what it said about his players.
“We’ve got a group of guys fighting to stay in the NHL, to get them out of that limbo… and we’ve got young guys trying to develop games and veteran guys that are trying to develop a hockey team,” said Maurice.
“So there’s lots of very important reasons why, aside from the simple fact that you are a professional and you’re not out of it til the end. But that’s not what we’re selling today. We’re selling today is how are we going to handle each day. They worked hard today, they did it right. That’s all they could get done today.”
Jacob Trouba did not practise Sunday after being bloodied during a fight Saturday with Calgary’s Sam Bennett. The 23-year-old, who has combined with Josh Morrissey to form Winnipeg’s best defensive pairing in recent weeks, returned to the ice after his injury but required further medical attention for an unspecified issue after the game.
Trouba joined the team charter to Nashville but his playing status was unknown.
“I’ll have a better answer for you tomorrow,” said Maurice. “I can’t tell you much yet.”
Despite being held off the scoresheet in consecutive games, Winnipeg’s Laine continues to lead NHL rookies with 32 goals and 59 points in 61 games. His closest pursuer, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, has 31 goals and 55 points while having played six more games.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.