Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are in town, but a quick trip through the Winnipeg Jets dressing room will tell you this:
Tonight’s game at MTS Centre (7 p.m., TSN/TSN 1290) will be about what the Jets do, not getting fixated on No. 87 in the yellow and black.
The Jets, 1-1-1 on the season after picking up three of four points in Boston and Washington, lost three of four to the Pens last year – including a couple of shellackings in Pittsburgh in which they gave up 16 goals.
"You don’t want to be caught making ‘Hope’ plays against this team. You don’t want to over-cautious your game. You’ve got to play the game," said head coach Claude Noel. "When we played Pittsburgh it was hard to stand behind the bench and watch this. It was, ‘Are you serious? What are we doing?’ The concern for me was the attitude we had in that game and not being able to change and continually thinking that we’re going to play this way. Against Pittsburgh? And then we end up on the wrong side of both games… badly."
The Jets will be making one lineup change for tonight, inserting Kyle Wellwood – who sat out the game in Washington – and sitting Mark Scheifele.
"There’s a process here," said Noel. "There’s different ways for a Mark Scheifele or a young player to improve. You can do that in practice, you can get better and grow or you can do it watching games and get comfortable. If he’s not in the lineup, the thing for me is there’s no reason to beat yourself up, you’ve been pretty good so let’s just continue to grow. Enjoy the process. That’s how it goes."
Ondrej Pavelec will get the start in goal for the Jets. He has started all three games and has a solid. 2.27 goals against average and .929 save percentage. But Pavelec’s career numbers against the Pens are gruesome:
1-10-0, 4.81, .858.
Asked if his team was learning to ‘walk the walk’ – play with confidence at home or the road – Jets forward Blake Wheeler threw up a stop sign.
"We won one game," he said. "I think that’s coming. That’s something you work for. That’s something you earn. That’s not something you can just all of a sudden one day that we believe we can win in any building. You have to prove you can do that. I think we’re on the right track to doing that. We have some young guys in our room and guys that are learning what it takes to win. All of us learning what it takes to win as a team."
Noel echoed the exact same message.
"That’s got to be earned in a little bit longer than three games," he said. "I wouldn’t put it there just yet. Yeah, we feel good about things. I think our team has got that balance a little bit, not like everybody else, and I think we’re trying to keep things in perspective.
"We’re going to be working in small increments and when it comes to our attitude and how we walk and conduct ourselves, we need to earn that right. That’s going to take more than three games. It will probably take more than five. I don’t know the number, but I’ll let you know when I sense it."