Jets losing ground in playoff race
Kirk Penton, QMI Agency
|Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien signs the jersey of Riley Laforte, 9, at the Shopper's Drug Mart at Tuxedo Park Shopping Centre on Sunday. Hundreds of fans queued up outside to make a donation to the Tree of Life fundraising campaign and get an autograph. (JASON HALSTEAD/QMI Agency)
The Jets’ playoff chances took two big blows on Sunday.
First, the Washington Capitals extended their eighth-place lead on the Jets to four points with a 2-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Capitals and Jets, who have two games remaining against one another, both have 13 regular-season contests to go.
If that isn’t bad enough for the Jets and their fans, any thoughts of catching Florida for first place in the Southeast Division are probably now out the window after the Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes by the same 2-0 score on Sunday.
The Panthers are five points up on the Jets and still have a game in hand.
Winnipeg and Buffalo are tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference, but the Jets have the tiebreaker.
Centre Jim Slater said the Jets can’t put too much emphasis on the two games with Washington, even though they will be massive.
“Those are definitely two that have big impact, but every game has an impact here,” Slater said. “You can’t just look at one team and say we gotta beat these guys, because we need as many wins as we can.”
When asked about his team’s putrid penalty killing on Friday night in Calgary, head coach Claude Noel noted the organization, going back to its Atlanta days, has never been much good while a man short.
“It’s not like it’s one of our staples,” Noel said. “So you gotta get better, or you gotta get people who can kill better. That’s all there is to it.”
Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey will likely be getting his partner back this week with Zach Bogosian expected to return to the lineup, but he’s been pleased with Grant Clitsome’s play alongside him for the last three games.
“He skates well. You can see that,” Hainsey said. “He talks a lot. We’ve been real good breaking out of our zone.”
Clitsome, who was picked up off waivers from Columbus on Feb. 27, has an assist and is minus-2 in three games with the Jets.
The Jets had Sunday off and are expected to return to the practice ice on Monday morning.
Winnipeg will kick off a three-game home stand on Wednesday against the Dallas Stars. Until then, Slater will be watching how his fellow Eastern Conference teams are faring.
“I’ll be watching it,” he said. “I’m one of those guys who likes to know what’s going on. Part of our business is to follow what other teams are doing, and I’m going to be right there seeing who’s getting points and who’s not.”