January 30, 2012
Time to step up for JetsSense of urgency with big stretch of post all-star break games
By KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
PHILADELPHIA - Mathematicians aren’t required inside the Winnipeg Jets dressing room.
As of right now, the Jets aren’t worried about projected point totals, calculations, tiebreakers or anything of that nature.
With 32 games left in the regular season, this isn’t the time for motivational speeches or closed-door meetings.
After winning just three of their past 13 games, the Jets fully realize the enormity of the situation they’ve put themselves in — and that situation sees them five points out of a possible playoff spot coming out of the NHL All-star break.
The Jets might be five points out of top spot in the Southeast Division and the third seed that comes with it, but they’re also five points out of the basement in the Eastern Conference — a place they have no interest occupying.
“In our situation, what happens at this time is you look at the schedule, the games, what you’ve got left, where the points are,” said Noel. “Everybody sees clearly. For us, this is pretty much a make or break month (ahead). We’ve got to be hanging around that (playoff) line. We’ve got to be close. Six of our next seven are on the road and for us, it’s going to be well-defined. We have to produce and we have to get wins, otherwise we get too far behind and can’t catch up.
“We have to find ways to win games and it has to be now. Either we’re going to be there, or we’re not.”
That sense of urgency is readily apparent to the players as well and now is their chance to do something about it.
“It’s time to step up,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “Enough has been said and we want to dig ourselves out of this hole. That comes with work and showing up sharp every day. And with a purpose. This is a big stretch. We’re playing some teams in our division, some teams in our conference. They’re all going to be huge games.
“The nice thing about the break is you’re able to get away from the frustration that was probably building and you come back with a positive excitement about what we can do here.”
If they can find a way to string some wins together, the Jets will keep themselves in the equation.
“We still know we’re a good team,” said Jets centre Jim Slater. “We’re not as close as we want to be, but we’re still right there. It starts (Tuesday). We’re going to get put to the test right away and we’ll see where we’re at.”
The Jets face the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday to resume a stretch of six consecutive road games.
The last time this two teams got together produced a hair-raising 9-8 win for the Jets over the Flyers at Wells Fargo Arena back in late October.
It wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but was a good example of character and gumption for a team that blew a pair of four-goal cushions in that contest and actually trailed 7-6 at one point early in the third period before rallying.
With three consecutive losses coming into Tuesday, the Jets could use a similar statement game to help them get back on track.
Could a five-day break be just the thing to help this team find the magic it produced during a December to remember?
Noel certainly hopes so.
“I think the rest will do the guys some good here,” he said. “It looks like some guys are invigorated coming back. Some guys gave some thought to where they’re at in their season.”
Where the Jets are at is the true beginning of the stretch drive and this is the time of the year when having too many passengers will bring disastrous results.
And that’s not a road the Jets care to be going down.