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Winnipeg Jets centre Bryan Little feels top line will bounce back

01/30/2015 06:02 EST | Updated 04/01/2015 05:59 EDT
WINNIPEG - Jets centre Bryan Little doesn't think his line's recent statistics should be blown out of proportion.

After reeling off a season-high five straight wins before the NHL all-star break, Winnipeg has lost its last two games. During the mini-skid, the top line of Little, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler has been kept off the scoresheet.

"I don't think it's a concern," Little said Friday after the Jets' optional skate. "At the end of the day, it's only two games. I don't think our line is happy with the way we've played the last two games, but we're working on it.

"It has only been two games, and there have been stretches during the year where we had been held off the scoresheet and been kind of ineffective and we found our way back to playing well."

The team's top goal scorer and his linemates will begin taking those steps Saturday when the Jets (26-16-8) host the Dallas Stars (22-19-7). Winnipeg has won two games against its Central Division rivals this season in Texas.

Winnipeg's total of 60 points is good for fourth place in the division. The Jets still hold the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference, five points up on the Calgary Flames.

Winnipeg followed a 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday by dropping a 5-2 decision to Philadelphia on Thursday. Ladd, Little and Wheeler combined for 14 shots on goals but were held without a point.

Ladd leads the team with 40 points, including 17 goals. Little has a team-high 18 goals and 38 points. Wheeler has tallied 13 goals and 36 points.

After some early-season line shuffling, the trio was reunited on Nov. 18. From that point to the all-star break, they combined for 28 goals and 78 points in 29 games.

"It's the same as the whole team, it hasn't been our best two games," Wheeler said. "It's two games. It's a small sample size over the (number) of games we've been together. We've been pretty good so we're not concerned."

Coach Paul Maurice agreed.

"Two games isn't a big enough sample to say that they're out of sorts," said Maurice, who celebrated his 48th birthday Friday. "They have other things that they've got to get done on the ice. I would put them in the same basket as the rest of the offensive groups in terms of where they can get better."

Little said it may be a case of the players coming back from the all-star break and thinking "it would be the same as when we left."

During their five-game winning streak, the Jets outscored their opponents 22-8.

"We kind of went through a stretch where we scored a bunch of goals and so I think we were feeling a little bit good about ourselves and it kind of got us away from what's given us success," Wheeler said.

"I think just simplifying (things will help). The goals are going to come, but we really need to work hard on the other end of the ice to try to limit some of those rushes that we're giving up."

Little said the team has to get "back to being ugly."

"I mean, we're not a pretty-looking, fancy team out there," he said. "We're better when we're simple."

The talk of ugliness brought up a question about some of the players' facial hair, which is starting to look like playoff beards. Winger Mathieu Perreault, who had both of Winnipeg's goals in Thursday's loss, says his thickening beard is rooted in superstition.

"I couldn't score early in the season and then after I got that first goal, I just kind of got on a roll and I just let it grow," said Perreault, who was held scoreless over his first 19 games.

He has 12 points in his last 10 games, including a four-goal outing against Florida on Jan. 13. He now has 17 goals, one short of tying his career high with Anaheim last season.

Little said the teammate they call Frenchie may have started a facial trend.

"We don't even really talk about it," he said. "It's just kind of like we saw everyone kind of doing it and no one wants to be the guy that takes it off.

"Maybe Frenchie, maybe he's the guy that started it. Everyone sees how good he's doing it and everyone wants to tag along and see if it'll work for them."

Notes: Winnipeg Jets forward T.J. Galiardi cleared waivers Friday morning and was assigned to the AHL St. John's IceCaps. He was recalled later in the day after the Jets placed forward Matt Halischuk on injured reserve. ... The Jets have won three straight home games.

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