SPORTS

Newcomers Myers and Stafford are already fitting in well with Jets

02/20/2015 06:14 EST | Updated 04/22/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - It's been a while since defenceman Tyler Myers and winger Drew Stafford were last in the playoff chase.

Three years, in fact, and it's been four seasons since they last experienced the postseason. So both couldn't be happier to be with a playoff contender after being dealt from the Buffalo Sabres to the Winnipeg Jets.

"It's the best," Myers said with a smile. "It's been a while since I've been in this position.

"The fact that we're in a position to give ourselves a chance to be a playoff team, I'm very excited to be here."

Myers and Stafford went from the NHL's worst team to the thick of the Western Conference race when they were part of the blockbuster deal that sent injured winger Evander Kane to Buffalo. Those players have already made an impact with their new squad.

"Both of them, for us, in some tough situations, have been a part of us coming from behind in games and getting us wins," Jets coach Paul Maurice said Friday. "So we're real happy with what they've brought to our team."

Myers has a goal and three assists and Stafford one goal through four games with the Jets. The coaching staff hasn't burdened the newcomers with too much to learn and told them to have fun and use their skill to get up to speed.

Part of the fun is playing meaningful games for the first time in a while.

"Just excited to get back into the hunt, back into the mix of playoff hockey, back in the race since I was earlier in my career," Stafford said. "To get thrown right back into that mix, it's a great feeling and I'm going to do my best to contribute in any way I can."

Myers and Stafford weren't luxury additions but necessary ones for the Jets, who've been hit hard by injuries. Kane's season was over due to shoulder surgery and more recently forward Mathieu Perreault suffered an injury that Maurice said would likely keep him out through the rest of the regular season.

Adding Stafford meant Winnipeg could keep all-star swingman Dustin Byfuglien on defence rather than move him up to forward. Stafford gutted through an injury himself to play in Thursday night's loss to the Washington Capitals. He skated Friday and expects to play Saturday night when the Jets visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Notes: Byfuglien, captain Andrew Ladd and winger Blake Wheeler (who was injured blocking a shot in Washington and returned) did not practise Friday but are expected to play against the Leafs, Maurice said. ... Michael Hutchinson, a native of Barrie, Ont., and Felix Potvin fan, is expected to start in goal for the Jets. He will have about 50 friends and family members watching his first NHL game at Air Canada Centre.

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