WINNIPEG - The homestand was rather fruitful.
Now the Jets have to enjoy the same kind of success on the road.
The Jets finished their eight-game homestand with a 5-1-2 record, picking up 12 of a possible 16 points and enter the final 15 games of the season in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
The teams behind them have games in hand, but the Jets should have the confidence now to play better on the road than they have. Head coach Claude Noel calls it the “elephant in the room.” We’ll see how fat that elephant is as the Jets play nine of their last 15 away from MTS Centre.
The Jets beat the red-hot Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Monday night. They’ve shown they can win when they need to. Now they just have to go out and do it outside of Manitoba’s borders. Until now, it’s been easier said than done.
Jets newcomer Grant Clitsome made his presence felt right off the bat when he broke in all alone on Ryan Miller, but the Sabres netminder was up to the task and got a piece of the puck. Clitsome, who has a heavy shot, got quite a bit of ice time and even was out there on the power play in the second period. He also thumped former Manitoba Moose centre Cody Hodgson hard into the boards, getting a cheer from the crowd … The ‘Who’s Better?’ feature in the first period was excellent, with a fan having to choose between Reg Dunlop and Dean Youngblood. His choice was easy, and he got it right … Claude Noel was worried the Jets were going to have a slow start on Monday night, having not played for four days, but he fears were allayed when they came flying out of the gates. The crowd certainly helped, as the fans were on their game from the very beginning … The 15,004 rowdies were chanting Miller’s name before the puck dropped for the first time. They even mixed up the chant. In addition to “Mil-ler! Mil-ler!” they also tossed in a few “Sil-ver med-al! Sil-ver med-al!” as well. Creative … Evander Kane made a great play late in the first when he backchecked hard to cover a pinching Dustin Byfuglien … The Jets have scored the first goal in seven of their last eight games.
Avid hockey fans in Manitoba might remember Konrad McKay, one tough hombre who played for the OCN Blizzard and once led the MJHL in scoring and fighting majors — in the same season. Well, it turns out Chris Thorburn’s first roommate in the OHL was none other than McKay, who hails from Wabowden. “Toughest little guy I’ve ever played with, and I roomed with him my first year of junior,” Thorburn said. “Talk about abusing a younger guy.” Thorburn was 16, and McKay was 19 when they played together for the North Bay Centennials. “We’d wrestle to see who made grilled cheese sandwiches, and he would absolutely kill me.” McKay was a positive influence on Thorburn. “He was an awesome guy. He’s a beauty. He took care of me. He’s old school. He kind of taught me the way, like respect the older guys. And thank God I learned that at a young age because I think it did well for me.” … One more note from my chat with Thorburn the other day. In an old story he said he was interested in computer science or architecture. When asked about it on Sunday, he broke out laughing, saying the only reason he said that was because one of his uncles was an architect and the other was a computer scientist and they sounded like cool jobs. “I can barely charge my computer,” Thorburn said with a laugh.
SHUT UP AND PLAY
Line of the night courtesy of Jim Slater on the video scoreboard in the first intermission. He went to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for a day, was given a French horn and let out what sort of sounded like a musical note: Said Slater: “I need to go to band camp” … While Kane has been playing great as of late, he needs to stop whining to the officials every time he thinks a penalty has been committed against him. He does it every time, and the officials have to be noticing it by now. He’s not going to get the calls if he keeps doing that … Randy Jones had the shift on the night midway through the second when the Jets were killing a penalty. He was diving to get the puck out, hitting and just generally dominating the play. He’s no doubt back into a rhythm after being a healthy scratch for the first half of February … Speaking of Jets defencemen, Mark Stuart had the save of the night when he got in front of a Tyler Ennis attempt in the middle frame … Corey Tropp had Buffalo’s first goal late in the second when Alex Burmistrov lost his man in his own zone. It was Tropp’s second career tally and first since Nov. 8. That night he scored his first career goal against — you guessed it — the Winnipeg Jets … Aside from a moment early in the third when he passed instead of shooting, Nik Antropov has been playing well and seems to have found a home on the fourth line. He’s much more noticeable these days than he was before he was dropped from the second line …Thorburn’s goal originally looked like such a beauty — he actually got his own rebound on the play — that it brought a billionaire out of his seat. After he beat Miller with the insurance goal midway through the third, even Jets co-owner David Thomson stood and cheered from the owner’s box.