February 21, 2012
Jets shooting for top spot in Southeast
By KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
With a win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night at MTS Centre, the Winnipeg Jets would vault into first place in the Southeast Division — at least momentarily.
The Jets are riding a three-game winning streak as they continue an eight-game homestand and the Florida Panthers are finally back in their sights.
Although the Jets enter today in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 64 points, a win would move them not only into a playoff spot but into the third seed, though the Panthers would hold four games in hand.
“It’s more than a carrot, that third spot is gold for us — we want to get there and stay there to the end of the season,” said Jets centre Jim Slater. “If we can get into that third spot and keep that, having home-ice advantage in the playoffs, especially in this place, is definitely huge for us.”
Jets head coach Claude Noel doesn’t want his team playing any differently since first place is on the line.
“I’m not getting too involved in third, eighth, I’m just going to focus on the task,” said Noel. “If we can win, we’re too points better in the stadings. So many teams have games in hand right now that it’s hard to really get a real measuring stick on where we would go.
“I want to continue winning, I want to continue playing well. The other stuff, with where we can end up, I don’t want to get into that and I don’t personally even want to discuss it. I think we’re capable of doing some good things if we continue to play well.”
The Jets will ice the same lineup as in Sunday’s 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche, meaning defenceman Randy Jones and Eric Fehr are in and Zach Bogosian and Antti Miettinen are out.
Bogosian continues to be listed as day-to-day, though Noel admitted he’s not sure the blue-liner will be ready for Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It has the potential to be longer. We’re hoping Thursday,” said Noel. “If I knew it was going to be a week, I would have said it was going be be a week. Then I wouldn’t have to answer the question and it would have made my life easier.
“I’m certainly not trying to string you along. I’ll continue to answer the question until I can put a better number on it.”
The Jets have won all three previous meetings this season and looking to complete a sweep of the season series, while the Flyers (who currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference with 71 points) have lost six of their past eight and are looking to regroup.
“We haven’t played very well lately,” said Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr. “We need to concentrate more on defence. We were were in good position, two or three weeks ago and now it’s a little bit tough. That’s the way it is and it’s going to come down to the last two weeks for everybody.
“This is the most important time of the season, the games are going to get tougher and tougher. Tougher to win the games, tougher to score. It’s a big challenge for anybody.”
Ondrej Pavelec gets the call in goal for the Jets, while the Flyers' starter is undetermined, according to head coach Peter Laviolette — who said he'd make the announcement later in the day.
Ilya Bryzgalov was hit in the finger with a puck during the morning skate by Claude Giroux and left practice early.
However, Bryzgalov told a few teammates in the dressing room that the he was fine and then declined an interview request, raising the possibility he could still get the start.
The puck drops at 6:05 p.m. at the downtown arena.