Andrew Ladd wants to experience a whiteout, but it’s got nothing to do with the snow in Winnipeg.
The captain hopes the team gets into the playoffs so fans can continue the post-season tradition of wearing white as they did with the original Winnipeg Jets NHL club.
“The whiteout is the most appealing thing, and being a part of where that all started would be, for me, something that would be pretty cool to play in front off,” Ladd said after Wednesday’s practice.
The tradition of Winnipeg fans wearing white in the post-season began in the 1986-87 NHL playoffs when fans countered Calgary’s “C of Red” in the opening round with the “Winnipeg White Out.”
The Jets defeated the Flames in six games, but were swept by the Oilers in the next round. Wearing white in the playoffs continued and even followed the Jets when the franchise moved to Phoenix after the 1995-96 season.
Hockey-starved Winnipeg fans welcomed the Jets back to Manitoba prior to last season when the Atlanta Thrashers were bought, relocated and renamed. However, the new version of the Jets missed the playoffs last season.
Ladd is doing everything in his power to get Winnipeg (22-19-2) into this year’s post-season.
The B.C. native had two goals and an assist in regulation, then added the shootout winner in the Jets’ 4-3 victory over Tampa Bay on Tuesday that extended their winning streak to a season-high four games.
Winnipeg’s 46 points ties them with the Rangers for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but New York officially sits in that spot because they’ve played one less game than the Jets.
“You can just tell the excitement and the buzz for hockey is huge and the possibility of making the playoffs obviously would be great, for not only for us but the fans,” Jets forward Evander Kane said.
“That’s something they’re hungry for and we’re just as hungry, if not more.”
The Jets host Carolina (17-23-2) Thursday, a club in 14th place in the conference that’s only won two of its last 17 games.
Still, the Winnipeg players aren’t letting those numbers fool them, especially busy netminder Ondrej Pavelec. The goalie is tied for second with San Jose netminder Antti Niemi for most games played this season with 39. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne is the top workhorse with 41 games.
“They’re a tough team to play against,” Pavelec said of Carolina. “They’ve got a really good team. Their first line is really good.”
The Hurricanes’ top line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty has racked up 114 points in 42 games this season, including nine points in their last three games against Winnipeg.
The Jets’ top line of Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler isn’t too shabby, either, combining for seven goals and 15 assists in their four-game winning streak.
Head coach Claude Noel said the trio is getting more “mature” and in sync in its second season together.
“You’ve really got to tip your hat to the three of them,” he said.
“They’ve really done a good job of becoming a top line in the National Hockey League, whereas before or even last year we were like, ‘Well, are they or aren’t they or what are they?“’
Ladd leads the Jets with 18 goals and 41 points. Wheeler is next with 16 goals and 35 points. Kane has 16 goals and 31 points and Little follows with 28 points from six goals and 22 assists.
But every Winnipeg player is going to have to boost their production in the last five games of the regular season with the tight races for playoff spots in the conference.
The Jets also host the seventh-place New York Islanders on Saturday, a team that’s three points ahead of them.
Then it’s out on the road to face Buffalo (four points back) and the red-hot Washington Capitals, who lead the Southeast Division with four more points than Winnipeg. The Jets finish the sprint at home April 25 against second-place Montreal (57 points)
“In this league, there’s not an easy team,” Pavelec said. “Every game is tough. You just have to keep going.
“If you’re going to make the playoffs, and that’s our goal, you have to keep pushing and get the win (Thursday). You have no choice.”
Also Wednesday, the Jets assigned defenceman Zach Redmond to AHL St. John’s on a conditioning assignment.
He has four points (1-3) in eight games this season. Redmond hasn’t been in the lineup since sustaining a leg injury Feb. 17.