Will Calgary feel like home for Jets?
The Jets had a huge number of supporters in the stands Thursday night in Vancouver, but still fell 3-2 to the Canucks to slip out of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference. (JASON HALSTEAD/QMI Agency)
Their fans are doing everything they can to make the Winnipeg Jets feel at home on the road.
Now the players need to get the kind of results they regularly achieve in their own building.
The Jets had a huge number of supporters in the stands Thursday night in Vancouver, but still fell 3-2 to the Canucks to slip out of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
Friday night they'll have as many or more supporters in attendance when they take on the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome and they'll need to channel that support into a victory if they want to salvage anything from this two-game western road swing that is so important to their playoff hopes.
"They never cease to amaze," Jets left-winger Tanner Glass said. "They're all over the place and they're a raucous bunch.
"You can definitely hear them when they're there. They want us in the playoffs and we want to be there so it's pretty cool."
The Jets have a 32-28-8 record through 68 games, which leaves them ninth in the Eastern Conference, though tied in points with the eighth-place Washington Capitals and just two points back of the Southeast Division leading Florida Panthers.
Any of those three teams could still win the division and grab the third seed in the conference, but nobody seems to be taking the bull by the horns. The Jets have played more games than the other two, so their losses are even more magnified at this point.
Even though they played fairly well against a tough opponent Friday night, the Jets still aren't getting the desired results on the road and that has to change immediately.
Jets coach Claude Noel said earlier this week they needed to win five of their final nine road games to make sure they are in a good position to make the playoffs.
Make that five of the final eight.
"We've just got to visualize that we're at home," Noel said. "The support seems to be everywhere.
"We just need to get some results. If we can win this game here tonight, we end up .500 on this trip and we'll take that."
The Jets are taking on a Flames team that's also battling for a playoff spot. Though they have the same number of points as the Jets (72), the Flames are 11th in their conference and are three points out of a playoff position.
"It's a very important game for us as it is for them," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. "It's probably a rivalry that will grow over the years. You always like to beat a team from another Canadian city but you can definitely see the fans from the other cities coming into make it more fun.
"But for us, and for them, it's bigger than that, it's just trying to make that playoff push that makes this game so important for both teams."
The Flames are dealing with a ton of injuries. Eight regular players are out of the lineup for Friday's game and at least four players on emergency recall will join the lineup, including 19-year-old Sven Baertschi, who has been called up from the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.
"I want him to enjoy the fact that this is his first professional game," Flames coach Brent Sutter said. "I want him to have good memories about it. He knows and understands the importance of the game for our team and the situation we are in."
Iginla didn't practice Thursday or Friday, but said he's just resting because he has a cut on his ankle. It won't keep him out of game action.
The Jets are expected to start the same lineup as Thursday night, though Noel would not say for certain that Ondrej Pavelec would start in goal over Chris Mason. Miikka Kiprusoff will be in goal for the Flames.
Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian remains sidelined with a lower body injury.
Noel said the Jets didn't deserve to win Thursday night in Vancouver and will have to do a lot more of the little things right.
After all, the fan support can only go so far.
"It's been a special season for us because the fans really bring a lot to the table for us at home and we find that when we go on the road, especially in Canada, we still have the same kind of fan support," Noel said.
"But we have to try to concentrate on the task at hand and just get our focus from the game, not from the fans."
The puck drops at 8:05 p.m.