February 4, 2012
Jets face 'big test' against Habs
By KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
Moments after the Winnipeg Jets had squandered another big opportunity, Ron Hainsey had a handle on the right perspective.
The veteran defenceman wasn’t trying to discount the importance of a 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers in what was a chance to pull within one point of top spot in the Southeast Division.
Hainsey knew the Jets couldn’t afford to worry about getting the lost points back but would be able to make the most of the situation by regrouping on Sunday afternoon against the Montreal Canadiens and finishing a four-game trip on a high note.
Winning three out of four games would have been something the Jets would have taken going into the week.
Now it’s basically a must, as an outright loss against a team near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings would leave them 2-2 and treading water at a time they need to be making a serious push.
“We just have to put (Friday) behind us, we have one more game on this trip,” said Jets goalie Chris Mason. “We just have to shrug it off. The first two games of this trip we played pretty well. If we go into Montreal and get a couple points, we’d look at it as a pretty good trip.”
There should be no shortage of motivation for the Jets as they get set to face the Canadiens for the fourth and final time this season.
The Jets have lost twice to the Canadiens, 5-1 in the emotional opener and 7-3 in their last meeting on Jan. 4 at the Bell Centre.
The atmosphere most certainly won’t be lacking.
“It’s pretty easy to get up for the games there — it’s my favourite place to play on the road,” said Jets centre Bryan Little. “It’s going to be a big game for us, a big test.”
In that last game, Lars Eller was a man on a mission, putting together a career night that saw him score a career-high four goals and add an assist for a five-point night.
Eller’s spin-o-rama move on a penalty-shot — with the game out of reach late in the third period — drew the ire of head coach Claude Noel and several Jets afterward.
However, the stakes are too high for the Jets to be going out to settle any type of score.
The one and only thing the Jets need to focus on is finding a way to win the game.
Goalie Ondrej Pavelec should be rested and he played well in both of his starts earlier this week.
He blanked the Canadiens 4-0 on Dec. 22, so he should be up for the challenge of going head-to-head with Carey Price.
The Jets will also be the more rested of the two teams, as the Canadiens faced the Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon and lost 3-0.
As tough as it’s been for the Jets when being the team playing on consecutive nights (0-9), the Jets have been nearly as good when facing a team in that situation — the only loss coming last month when the Panthers beat them 4-3 in a shootout.
The Jets are 7-0-1 when holding the schedule advantage and have outscored opponents 28-14.
If the Jets can find a way to get the job done on Sunday, they’ll set the table for another important week ahead, where the Jets will face the Toronto Maple Leafs at home on Tuesday before heading back on the road to face the Capitals on Thursday and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday — three teams that are ahead of them in the standings.
With 29 games left on the schedule, recognizing what’s at stake is the easy part.
Actually rippng off a long winning streak and making up the ground is proving to be a little more difficult.