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'Let's keep things in perspective,' Noel says

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The unfiltered Claude Noel worries his superiors at times, but the Winnipeg Jets head coach laid out the perfect quantity and quality of advice on Wednesday.

His team had returned home in the wee hours of the morning after defeating the Washington Capitals 4-2.

Combined with a point from a shootout loss Monday against the difficult Boston Bruins, it was a three-points-out-of-four start on the road for one of the NHL's worst away-from-home outfits a year ago.

"Happy comes with winning," Noel said, sharing his mood.

But almost in the same breath: "Let's keep things in perspective. We remember the first game (a 4-1 home loss to Ottawa) and we had a good road trip."

The Jets are 1-1-1 early in this 48-game sprint and while he was encouraged to see how his team responded after the opener at the MTS Centre, there is plenty of work ahead.

"I'm not one to start saying, 'yippee, here we go,' " Noel said. "We've played three games. We've got a fairly formidable opponent here Friday that we're going to be dealing with and we're going to be tested again.

"I think it's important here to keep an emotional balance in how things are going."

Better start

Yes, the conference-favoured Pittsburgh Penguins, out to a better start than the Jets, are Friday's visitors and the coach knows only too well that every week of this shortened schedule contains two or three measuring-stick games.

Noel stickhandled quite well Wednesday -- a day off for his players -- around several angles of questions about his lines and his line-juggling.

"People want to jump to conclusions in all kinds of ways," he said.

But he was quite skilled in drilling into the approach of his own team in the three games so far, and without dousing the results with too much cold water. First about the Jets' better battle level in Games 2 and 3.

"I like the improvement from game to game," Noel said. "Very clearly for me, the players have thought about last season, about all the things surrounding our team in regards to lack of production and back-to-backs.

"And I think they will to try to change those things, knowing that will enable us to get above the line."

And about the mixture of "world-beating" Jets and "lost" Capitals on Tuesday, the coach claimed insight.

"If you had read the papers after our first home game, you would have had a fair buffet of (criticism)," Noel said. "I can't speak too much for Washington or about them but looking from afar, I just know from being a player and being on a team, they've had three coaches in a year-and-a-half and throws a big wrench (into it).

"Then you put a shortened season with no exhibition games, no evaluation, new coach coming in, that's a lot to handle, manage. Even if you're an experienced coach...

"We have the luxury in our situation where we have very few added players, a couple of impact guys, we have pretty much stability in our group, the luxury of having the same coach into the second year, so what I hope what we're seeing is a little bit of a foundation."

And no parades just yet.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

more nhl coverage on d2,3,5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 24, 2013 D1

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