Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Winnipeg shows grit, better effort on the road

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It's the nature of the sports media biz to make grandiose statements and hyperbolic proclamations.

That's what we do. It's the very foundation of this wacky gig.

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So, excuse us while we resist the urge to declare the Winnipeg Jets' work on this road trip -- three of a possible four points after Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Washington Capitals -- as the equivalent of slaying a couple of size-large dragons.

So, how about dousing some smouldering embers, then?

"We put out some potential fires with a back-to-back win and three out of four points on the road," said head coach Claude Noel.

Still, here's the thing: Until the Jets proved otherwise the local press crew was all too willing to open up some old wounds from a year ago -- the atrocious road record and awful numbers in back-to-back games.

And now -- even though it's early -- we've got nothing.

"That's always the plan," said Evander Kane with a grin afterward. "You guys always find something to talk about. We've got to lessen all that activity out there.

"We're confident we can play on the road the way we do at home. We just need to keep that home trend going from last year. If we can get back to winning at home and improve our road record to .500 or above, we'll give ourselves a chance."

Yes, it's early. And yes, the hearty back-slapping could be lost as soon as the Jets head out on the road again next week, with stops in Montreal, Florida and Tampa Bay.

But what these two days also provided was some hard evidence of how the Jets have to play, whether it's away from home or at the MTS Centre.

This isn't a team that can be regularly carried by one line. It isn't a roster stocked with Hart Trophy candidates. But, as cornball as it sounds, when it's getting solid goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec and four lines all doing their thing, it can be effective.

"We know in here what it's going to take for us to be successful," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "That's a team that uses four lines, plays a high pace and plays a simple game.

"We don't have a lot of flash and dash and high-end skill on this team. I mean, we've got skilled guys, but we're going to do it by working hard and working together."

No hyperbole. No brash talk. Just the straight goods and a buy-in to what the coaches began preaching a year ago.

"The thing I'm most happy about is the fact our players are recognizing the way that we need to win," said head coach Claude Noel.

"The work that we did last year to build a foundation... I think they recognize now that we can get this done. They also like the additions we've made to our roster. Their belief system is in a really good place."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 23, 2013 C1

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