SPORTS

With playoffs in reach, Jets add veteran experience for final push

03/02/2015 05:22 EST | Updated 05/02/2015 05:59 EDT
WINNIPEG - Bryan Little is starting to feel like this season is going to have a different ending for the Winnipeg Jets.

While Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff made no moves Monday on the last day of NHL trading, he did boost Winnipeg's roster with five veteran players this season, including four since Feb. 11.

Those additions have helped keep the Jets (32-20-12) on a flight path that could see the franchise make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

"There's a sense everyone has that confidence right now, which I don't think was really there before," Little said after Monday's practice.

"We're going out and playing L.A. and St. Louis and we all believe we can beat teams like that right now, where before I don't know if that was really inside us."

The Jets beat the Kings 5-2 Sunday and lost a 2-1 shootout to the Blues last Thursday.

Now 6-2-2 in its last 10 games, Winnipeg holds the first of two wild-card spots in the Western Conference and is three points back of third-place Chicago in the Central Division heading into games.

Winnipeg hosts Ottawa (27-23-10) on Wednesday to end a four-game homestand (2-0-1). The Jets are 5-0-2 in their last seven games at MTS Centre.

"I feel comfortable moving forward here," Cheveldayoff said at a news conference after the deadline passed.

"We're a better team than we were a few days ago and I think it's going to be an exciting race to the finish."

The team continues its playoff push despite injuries to key players that began on the blue-line in late November.

That prompted Cheveldayoff to find reinforcements and then add veteran depth as a vote of confidence.

Defenceman Jay Harrison was acquired in a trade with Carolina on Dec. 18 for a draft pick. He's played 357 NHL regular-season games.

Next up was the big Feb. 11 deal that sent injured forward Evander Kane, defenceman Zach Bogosian and prospect goalie Jason Kasdorf to the Buffalo Sabres for defenceman Tyler Myers, forward Drew Stafford, some prospects and a first-round draft pick.

Stafford has played 571 games, plus 20 in the playoffs. Myers has 373 games under his belt, as well as 13 in the post-season.

Last Wednesday, Cheveldayoff picked up forward Jiri Tlusty from the Carolina for two draft picks. His resume boasts 398 games.

On Sunday, Winnipeg traded Carl Klingberg to the New York Rangers in exchange for forward Lee Stempniak, who was expected to arrive in Winnipeg late Monday. He's amassed 690 games, plus 24 in the post-season.

"It seems like two weeks and, boom, we've got four fresh faces in here and some pretty big trades so I was a bit surprised, but at the same time very welcoming of the guys we brought in," Little said.

After practice, coach Paul Maurice said he likes the look of his roster.

"I'm fine with our team," Maurice said. "I think we've got good depth at all our positions. I really like the way our defence is rounding out. I'm good with where we're at."

But nothing has been accomplished yet and they have to get better, Maurice added.

Little believes they can do just that.

"I think we have a pretty special team in here and a close group of guys," Little said. "I think everyone kind of realizes that we have a good mix that can do some damage."

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