High stakes make game 'a lot more fun': Noel

Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets celebrate Wheeler's goal against the Florida...

Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets celebrate Wheeler's goal against the Florida Panthers. (Marianne Helm/Getty Images/AFP)

Kirk Penton, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:25 PM ET

The Winnipeg Jets need a win or a point on Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres if they’re going to hold on to eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Sabres are two points back of the Jets. They have won three road games in a row and would take over eighth spot with a regulation win because they will have played one fewer game than the Jets.

Winnipeg is 4-1-2 going into the final contest of its eight-game home stand.

“There’s a lot on the game,” head coach Claude Noel said. “So that makes the game a lot more fun.”

Jets defenceman Grant Clitsome, who was claimed off waivers from Columbus last week, will make his debut with his new team on Monday night. Zach Bogosian is out with a lower-body injury.

Clitsome, who hasn’t played a game since Feb. 21, will play on the right side with Ron Hainsey against the Sabres. He said he won’t try to do too much in his first game, but he can’t wait to get going.

“I’m really excited,” Clitsome said. “There’s going to be butterflies for sure. It’s been a little while since I played a game and been in a building like this and a market like this.

“Playing with new teammates, for sure there will be some butterflies, but I’m really excited. Once I get out there and hear the crowd I’ll get right into it.”

Noel had the choice of Clitsome or Mark Flood to replace Bogosian. He simply wants to see what the team has in Clitsome.

“I just wanted to get him going and just get him playing, rather than have him wait,” Noel said. “If the opportunity existed, we would just get him playing, get him started.”

Noel believes a quick start and getting to red-hot Sabres netminder Ryan Miller is going to be important for the Jets.

“They look like they’re certainly feeling good about things,” Noel said. “They’ve managed to score first in a lot of these games that they’ve played. We’re rested up, but we still gotta play the game. Sometimes when you’re rested up it takes you a little while to get your rhythm back. So there’s some things that we have to be aware of.

“But probably the key to us is the success that we’re able to have against their goaltender. The start of the game’s going to be really important.”

The Sabres were 10 points out of a playoff spot on Feb. 17, but now they have a chance to move into eighth after going 6-0-2 in their last eight outings.

“We’ve been treating every game like a playoff game,” head coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’ve been living for every game. It started in Anaheim. We wanted to make sure we got this road trip off to a good start.”

Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Jets, while Miller will counter for the Sabres. Buffalo defenceman Robyn Regehr, who has been out with a hip injury, will be a game-time decision, Ruff said.

LIVE BLOG:

The Winnipeg Sun sports team is at MTS Centre with up-to-the-minute updates from the Jets vs. the Sabres.

 


Photos