Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Jets down Coyotes 1-0
Say this about your Winnipeg Jets: they’ve got more layers than an onion, more personalities than Sybil and, depending on the night, can either thrill with their seemingly endless potential or have fans cursing their frightening inconsistencies.
So, place Thursday night’s 1-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in front of 15,004 at MTS Centre — old Jets vs. new Jets — in the ‘endless potential’ category.
Yes, fresh from a two-game losing streak in which they surrendered 10 goals and recklessly protected a lead, any lead, the Jets — backed by another stellar effort from netminder Ondrej Pavelec — served up one of their best defensive efforts of the season.
As a result, the club is now 10-11-4, tied with Tampa and within one point of Washington in the tightening Southeast Division.
"That was huge," said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. "We’ve kind of learned that the two biggest things when you have a lead in the third period are: 1. make them come 200 feet at you and get the puck in deep and 2. stay out of the penalty box. And when we do those two things you can see they didn’t get many chances in the third period.
"It’s a big win and obviously with all the sentimental stuff with the crowd it’s great to see the old Jets come back here and the new Jets take care of them."
To no one’s surprise, the Coyotes — the ‘old Jets’ — were booed from the opening face-off to the final horn. And captain Shane Doan, the loyal foot soldier, heard his share, too. In fact, during a brief stoppage in the first period Doan — who began his career with the Jets — drew a standing ovation from the crowd when the PA announcer asked for fans to salute his career in the NHL.
And then the booing lustily resumed immediately after.
The Jets got the game’s only goal when centre Bryan Little fed Evander Kane on a two-on-one, and then deftly gathered up the rebound after Kane clanged one off the post and deposited it behind Coyotes’ netminder Mike Smith.
And while there were some scrambly moments as the Jets protected the slim advantage, they did limit Phoenix — fresh from a 4-1 win over Chicago, winners of two straight and sporting one of the best road records in the West — to just six shots in the third period.
All this, it should be pointed out, without Nik Antropov and Eric Fehr and with defencemen Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey, Randy Jones and Derek Meech still in sick bay.
"I think we traded a couple more chances than we would have liked to with that team, but Pavelec shut the door for us and played great," said Little, who since scoring his first of the season now has seven goals and 11 points in last 11 games.
"That’s something we’ve been trying to work on lately: finishing teams off and having good third periods and we did exactly that tonight. If we can play like this every night at home it would be great."
The Jets were 0-for-3 on the power-play but, it’s worth noting, took only two penalties all night in a much more disciplined effort.
"That’s a big thing we’ve been struggling on: staying out of the penalty box," said Dustin Byfuglien. "We did a great job on that. We can take a lot of good things out of this, but we can’t be satisfied. There’s a lot of work to be done."
The Winnipeg Jets (9-11-4) will have a new face in the lineup when they host the Phoenix Coyotes (13-7-3) at MTS Centre Thursday night.
With forwards Nik Antropov and Eric Fehr listed as game-time decisions by the coaching staff (both have undisclosed injuries), winger Carl Klingberg, who was recalled from St. John’s Wednesday, makes his Jets debut. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Swede skated on a line with Jason Jaffray and Tim Stapleton during the morning skate, and is looking forward to just his second NHL game in his young pro career.
“Everybody’s dream is to play in the NHL and today is the day,” the easy-going 20-year-old told a throng of reporters Thursday. “For me, I’m just going to go out there and do my best. Don’t think so much -- just go out and have some fun.”
Klingberg has earned the promotion. In 20 games with the IceCaps, the former second round draft pick (34th overall, 2009 NHL Entry Draft) scored nine goals and added seven assists before getting the call up to the parent club.
“We just wanted him to have impact on games there, not more or less create offence so much, but just be a reliable winger,” Jets head coach Claude Noel said. “He went to St. John’s and created quite a bit of offence; a lot of it has (come) from getting rebounds and going to the net. For us, we just want to make sure he’s dependable.”
A lot of attention is placed on this contest, naturally, with the former Winnipeg Jets franchise returning to its roots for the first time since the 1996 season. That fact, and the fact the Coyotes were once on the verge of coming back to Manitoba last spring, has created some buzz in the lead up.
“It’s probably pretty fresh in everyone’s mind, given everything that’s happened in the last year in this community -- trying to get a team back,” Jets forward Blake Wheeler said. “Every time the Dallas Stars went back to Minnesota they (the fans) gave it to them, especially the first couple (games).”
The Jets are treating it like just another game, the players say, looking past the history of the opponent and focusing on their own efforts of late. Winnipeg wasn’t pleased with the way it opened this extended stretch of games at home against Ottawa Tuesday (a 6-4 loss to the Senators), and say the ‘big event’ status of having the Coyotes in town won’t play a factor tonight.
“It shouldn’t at all,” captain Andrew Ladd added. “The energy in this building has been the same -- it’s been great since the start of the year. It doesn’t change much for us. I think it’s a bigger thing for Winnipeg, having the opportunity for the (Coyotes) to come back it’s probably a big thing.”
Ondrej Pavelec gets the call for Winnipeg, his third straight start between the pipes. Phoenix is expected to counter with goaltender Mike Smith.
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.
The new Winnipeg Jets host the former incarnation of the Jets, now the Phoenix Coyotes, at the MTS Centre Dec. 1.
Updated on Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 11:34 AM CST: adds slideshow
1:12 PM: Adds game preview
8:14 PM: Adds first period score
9:06 PM: Updates game after second period
10:00 PM: Adds final result
10:51 PM: Adds details and quotes in writethrough
11:22 PM: Adds quotes
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