By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
It isn’t something that has been commonplace among the Winnipeg Jets this season, but when Blake Wheeler spoke of scoring that “extra” goal to win hockey games earlier in the morning he was more than prepared to back it up later that evening.
The Jets won a thriller at the MTS Centre 6-4 thanks to Blake Wheeler’s game winning goal at the 10:40 mark of the third period. The goal was the second of the game for the man his teammates affectionately call ‘Wheels’ and was his ninth in his last 12 games for the club.
“I don’t think we need to do anything differently, we just need to find a way to score another goal,” said Wheeler after Friday’s pre-game skate.
Mission accomplished from his standpoint.
Wheeler has been on a tear recently for the Winnipeg-based club. After enduring a 14-game goalless drought, Wheeler’s recent resurgence is a welcomed addition to a team in search of more production and more specifically, goals.
“I think confidence plays into it,” said Wheeler on the heels of his two-goal performance. “When the puck starts going in the net you find yourself going into those scoring areas a little bit more and the puck seems to bounce your way a little bit more.”
Wheeler admitted the last month has been “weird,” not only for himself, but for the team as a whole.
“For me, it has been kind of a weird month,” he said. “A lot of times looking in the mirror and trying to figure out what I can do differently to try and help this team. There has been a lot of ups and downs, dips and peaks and valleys. It has been disappointing overall.
“We are trying to win games and I think everyone is pushing that direction and when you are not doing that, every night you got to look at see what you can do differently.”
Jets’ head coach Claude Noel said when Wheeler plays a physical, fast game; he can be as potent as he was tonight for the Jets.
“When he skates and is involved physically, when he is playing the right way, I think you can see some of the good things he can do,” said Noel. “He got to the net on that one and deflected it and had a couple of other good chances, so I thought that line was good for us tonight.”
Noel alluded to doing some of the things the team needed to do to get the win in his post-game comments.
“I thought in the third period we really tried to push forward and try do some of the things we need to do and obviously we tired to pushed their goalie into a situation where we were able to score,” said Noel. “I didn’t think we sat back, I thought we played on our toes and I didn’t think we sat there waiting to see how this game/result would be. I thought we did some good things in the game.”
The win for the Jets was just their fourth in their own division this season. With the victory, the Jets are now six points behind the Wild for the fourth spot in the Central Division, although they trail the Phoenix Coyotes in the wildcard race by seven points.
The Jets now travel to Colorado after practicing Saturday morning for another stiff divisional test against the Avalanche, who lost 7-2 to the Blackhawks on Friday night.
Scott’s Scribbles: Mark Stuart was a late-scratch just before game time on Friday night, one report indicated he missed the game due to a lower-body injury (groin)…Julian Melchiori played his first NHL game Friday posting a minus-one in the plus-minus department in 8:41 of ice-time…Dustin Byfuglien snapped a 15-game goalless drought with his marker in the first period.