SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- The Winnipeg Whiteout -- that tradition which has Jets fans celebrating the region's often inclement winter weather by wearing white to playoff games -- seemed like a good idea, especially as raucous home crowds helped spur the Jets to a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven first round playoff series with the Minnesota Wild.
The concept of a whiteout was less fun for the Jets come Saturday, as they tried to make their way to the Twin Cities for Game 3. A freak April blizzard hitting central Minnesota shut down MSP Airport during the day, forcing the Jets to land in Duluth, Minn., in the early afternoon.
The Jets' plane returned to Winnipeg, so the club will fly to Minneapolis tomorrow morning.
That's about the worst thing that has happened to Winnipeg so far in the playoffs, as the Jets have dominated the last five periods of this series and even survived the Wild's attempt to send a message in the final seconds of Game 2 as fists flew all over the ice in a "playoff normal" show of increasing bad blood between these Central Division rivals.
This franchise has never won a road playoff game, and as much as they enjoyed home ice in the first two games, the Jets are aware that a less-than-friendly reception is likely in Minnesota.
"They're the next-best home team in the National Hockey League and they're going to get into their comfort zone real good," Jets coach Paul Maurice said Saturday before the team left and returned to Winnipeg. "It's a loud building, so what we need to do is handle it. Our game won't change, the things that we want to accomplish on the ice, but it's going to feel different on the bench."
The Wild, who along with Anaheim and Pittsburgh are among only three teams in the NHL to make the playoffs in each of the past six consecutive seasons, headed home Friday night in a sadly familiar position. Minnesota has trailed a series 2-0 in five of those six playoff seasons, including a year ago when it lost the first two at home and fell to St. Louis in five games.
The pre-series concern for Minnesota was how their defense would fare without mainstay Ryan Suter, who was lost for the season with an ankle injury. Instead, the concern after 120 minutes of hockey has been the Wild offense, which has managed only three goals and 37 shots in two games. The Wild lost three consecutive games just once this season.
"No matter how you cut it, guys play for seven months, and if they go down 0-2, they're a little bit disappointed, but it's not like getting down 0-2 in your building and having to go to their building," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said after the team practiced in its rink Saturday. "I don't think we've got any room for rest. We've got to play our absolute best."
Although Boudreau allowed extra rest for defenseman Matt Dumba, who has averaged 28 minutes, 30 seconds of ice time in the first two games as they try to fill the gap caused by Suter's absence. Dumba stayed home from practice Saturday under orders from the coach, who said he will be ready on Sunday.