Beyak: Jets take advantage of tired Sabres with victory

Dennis Beyak

1/20/2012 1:02:59 AM

With the 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres, the Winnipeg Jets are now 7-0 at home against teams that have played the night before. For most of the visitors it seems a Chicago/Winnipeg back-to-back is popular. So just as the Jets are 0-7 in the second game of back-to-backs, the Jets make other teams struggle with that stat as well.

Blake Wheeler returned to the lineup after missing two games and was an impact player. He went back to his normal spot, right wing on the line with Bryan Little and Evander Kane and they combined for 10 scoring chances and 10 shots on goal. Kane lead the team with six shots.

Andrew Ladd deflected a Ron Hainsey shot to open the scoring 11:34 into the opening period. In the last four games that the Jets have opened the scoring, Ladd has been the scorer three times. The line of Ladd, Nik Antropov and Kyle Wellwood was good. Each had two points. Wellwood now has four assists in his last three games, Ladd had a goal and an assist to give him seven goals in his last 16 games, while Antropov snapped a 13-game goalless drought with his 6th of the year and added an assist on Tim Stapleton's power play goal in the third that gave the Jets a 3-1 lead. Antropov scored late to make it 4-1.

The other offensive catalysts for the Jets has been defenceman Toby Enstrom who has now scored in three straight games. His power play goal in the second period snapped a 1-1 tie and ended up being the winning goal.

Ondrej Pavelec made some key saves when called upon, but head coach Claude Noel's game plan of getting on the struggling Sabres early worked as the Jets outshot Buffalo 19-10 in the first. The Sabres came with push at the start of the third but Stapleton's power play goal slowed their charge.

"We knew they were a fragile group," said Wheeler post game. As for his return, "I felt pretty good out there."

Coach Noel felt the first period was the key. "We did the things necessary in the first. Lots of pucks at Ryan Miller through two and that is what we wanted to do. I didn't have a comfort level in this game until Antropov's goal. We need practice time."

That is something we are hearing from many coaches around the league as games are being jammed in prior to the All-Star break. The Jets are in a stretch of nine games in 15 days. The Buffalo game started four in six nights, and right after the break it's another four in six nights and seven in 12 days. After the Florida game on Saturday it's six straight on the road for the Jets.

Zach Bogosian is expected back in the lineup Saturday against Florida (TSN 1290), while there is a chance Dustin Byfuglien made be ready for the Monday game in Carolina, although he has yet to resume skating with the team.

"Wheeler was really strong," stated Noel post game. "He was rested. energized. Mark Stuart made an impact early (two hits, two key blocked shots, a fight) with his physicality. Our power play was good going 2-for-4. We made some smart plays, good execution."

It was the 11th straight road loss for the Sabres, who were minus Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr, Tyler Ennis and Paul Gaustad. Gaustad was injured Wednesday in Chicago. Drew Stafford snapped a seven-game goalless slump with the only Sabres goal.