WINNIPEG — Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel said today that a quiet confidence is emerging within his team, accounting for four wins in five games from the just-completed longest road trip of the season.
Even better, the Jets have been getting results in close games.
Ignoring empty-net goals, four of their five recent road games and 10 of their last 11 have been one-goal affairs. With three wins in that category on the road in the last week, Winnipeg is 5-5 in the one-goal games since Feb. 5.
"The players, the coaches, they would rather win where there’s no so much anxiety," Noel told reporters this morning. Today’s a day off for his team, which faces the New Jersey Devils here Thursday night (7 p.m., TSNJets, TSN1290).
"I think the fact we’re winning close games is a good thing because it’s a real test on your resolve. A lot of times it tests your character and confidence, (because) it becomes brittle."
That was the case at home before the road trip, when the Jets lost four straight at the MTS Centre.
"We seem to embrace (close games) right now," Noel said. "We’re not afraid of it. You could have looked two weeks ago during a stretch of time where you play like you’re waiting for the wheels to fall off where now we’re looking forward to the game and knowing a quiet confidence makes us feel like this is under control."
Elements that are helping the team and that have helped its record back to .500 at 9-9-1 have been more won battles in key areas of the ice, moving the puck ahead more frequently and putting it in the right areas, Noel said.
"And I think we’ve got some timely goals," he said.
Today, the Jets sent defenceman Julian Melchiori and goalie Eddie Pasquale back to St. John’s of the AHL, without playing either player.
Defenceman Derek Meech has been recalled from St. John’s and backup goalie Al Montoya is ready for action, Noel said today.
The coach also said defenceman Toby Enstrom, out since Feb. 17, is feeling better today. Noel said Enstrom may skate soon but still labelled him week-to-week. Enstrom has missed six games.