Jet doing Little things
Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency
|Winnipeg Jets' centre Bryan Little celebrates his team's win over the New Jersey Devilswith teammates Tanner Glass (left to right), Jason Jaffray and Tim Stapleton on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. (FRED GREENSLADE/Reuters)
WINNIPEG - Bryan Little prefers not to spend much time thinking much about his numbers.
When you’re a first-line centre and it takes 15 games to score your first goal of the season, the chosen mental approach appears to be smart.
After his slow start (three assists in 14 games), Little has lifted his game and is producing at a much more rapid pace.
With two assists in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, Little has seven goals and 13 points in his past 12 games to move him to fourth in team scoring.
Eclipsing 20 goals suddenly seems like a much more realistic goal for Little, who sniped a career-high 31 during the 2008-09 season with the Atlanta Thrashers but dipped to 13 and 18 the next two campaigns.
“Coming into the season, I definitely wanted to be around 20 or past it,” Little said. “But I think I play better when I’m not focusing on trying to get to a certain amount. Every night I try to get as many scoring chances as I can.
“It’s funny. I went 13 or 14 games without a goal and it feels like it’s never going to come and then all of a sudden it comes in bunches. That’s just the way it works and all it takes is really one to get your confidence going.”
Little’s confidence is soaring right now, especially since being moved to a line with Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane, who leads the Jets with 14 goals and has been coming into his own of late.
The trio combined for five points on Saturday and created plenty of scoring opportunities.
“Last year, I started off the season with (Little) and we played together for the first 30 games, now I’m back with him and with Wheeler, there’s a ton of speed on that line and that can make for a dangerous combination,” said Kane.
That’s certainly been the case lately.
“It’s basically confidence,” said Little. “Once you get that, it’s a big thing and it can help a lot. When our line is going like we have been, it’s pretty easy and the points come fast — especially with the way Kane is playing and shooting the puck.”
Little’s hot stretch hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“He’s been great,” said Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian. “He’s got great speed and he’s a really smart player. He’s not the biggest guy but he battles real hard and he’s good defensively too for us.
“With the type of person he is, he’s a pretty quiet person and he just goes about his business. I don’t think him not scoring the first couple of games would really bother him. He’s a real hard worker and when he’s on fire, he’s going to help our team in the long run.”
Jets head coach Claude Noel gave his team Sunday off and they’ll be back on the ice Monday to prepare for Tuesday’s game against the Boston Bruins.
The Jets, now 11-11-4, will attempt to win a third consecutive game and avenge a 4-2 loss to the Bruins last weekend at the TD Garden that saw them race to a 2-0 lead but give up four straight goals to the defending Stanley Cup champions before the night was over.