Mason gets call for Jets vs. Panthers

Winnipeg Jets goalie Chris Mason takes a break during practice in Winnipeg Friday Dec. 30,...

Winnipeg Jets goalie Chris Mason takes a break during practice in Winnipeg Friday Dec. 30, 2011. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:57 PM ET

Veteran backup Chris Mason is getting the call in goal as the Winnipeg Jets try to take another step closer to the top of the Southeast Division standings.

After posting wins over the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning to open a four-game road trip, the Jets face the Florida Panthers on Friday night at BankAtlantic Center and will attempt to string together wins on consecutive nights for the first time this season — a streak that has reached eight consecutive losses.

“We just have to find a way to win the game (the Panthers) are a rested team,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel, whose club is riding a two-game winning streak that includes wins over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. “Last time we played these guys, they had the back-to-back (situation) and we ended up serving up some pizzas and lost the game in a shootout, which was disappointing for us. We played pretty well. Outshot them, outplayed them and still found a way to lose against a division rival.

“We just have to be better. The bright side is that we’ve played better of late. Our guys are feeling better about our overall game. For us, we have a lot of things to build on.”

The consecutive wins allowed the Jets to pull within three points of the Panthers, who hold the Southeast Division lead with 57 points.

The Panthers are coming off a 4-2 win over the Washington Capitals that allowed them to leapfrog past the Capitals.

This will be the fourth of six meetings this season, with the Panthers holding a 2-1 lead in the series, earning a 4-3 win in a shootout on Jan. 21 and 5-2 on Nov. 10 after the Jets won 4-3 in a shootout back on Oct. 31.

Kris Versteeg has been the offensive catalyst for the Panthers, picking up five goals and seven points in the two wins at MTS Centre.

“He’s a good player for them — he’s the one guy that’s really kind of hurt us,” said Noel. “Last game, we kind of gave him a couple of free ones and he takes advantage. But you’ve got to give him full marks and full credit. He’s a guy that’s got skill and speed. He’s got that long stick and he can make plays. He’s a guy that we’ve got to be aware of.”

Versteeg had been suffering from a bout of the flu, but he declared himself ready to go for the Panthers on Friday morning.

“I’m slowly getting there. Hopefully, tonight I’ll get some more energy back,” Versteeg told reporters. “Hopefully I got over that hump. Today, you start getting energy back and start feeling good again.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s an injury or whatever, I always expect myself to go out there and play hard no matter how I feel. You do what you can to get ready for the game.”

Versteeg explained that his temperature surpassed 100 as he battled the illness.

“The worst part about it is you can’t for about five night you can’t even sleep because your fever is too high,” he said. My brother (Bryce) had the exact same thing, so him and I were going through it together. You can’t really sleep, which is the tough part. When you want to get better by getting rest, you actually can’t rest.”

The Panthers will go with Scott Clemmensen in goal as Jose Theodore continues to battle through a knee injury.

Clemmensen made 41 saves the last time these two teams got together.


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