WINNIPEG — More line juggling and ramped-up coaching were the highlights of Winnipeg Jets’ practice this morning at the MTS Centre.
Coming off their disappointing 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators here on Sunday, the Jets went through a 70-minute workout with many elements, including new combinations that may feature Bryan Little with Andrew Ladd and Devin Setoguchi, as well as Mark Scheifele with Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler at home on Tuesday night against the Washington Capitals.
Jets coach Claude Noel didn’t sound highly convinced that he yet had the right answer with his forwards.
"Right now I can’t find the right 12 to play together," Noel said, his team now 4-5 after winning its first two. "Who’s my first, second, third, fourth line? I don’t know.
'We’ve just got things in the wrong order. We’ve got to get them in the right order. That’s my job.'
"You’re asking me who’s the right guys to play together. I’m trying to sort through it. It started in pre-season and it’s carried on through.
"We don’t have enough A games, enough players to sit everybody (then) to put everybody back in. Sit 12 and bring in another 12? I don’t have enough. I could sit a lot of guys."
The wins and losses of late have caused quite a roller coaster around the team, but the players are trying to ignore the wild swings.
"I think you try to keep everything in the room, everything about this group in here and I think that’s something we can do a better job of controlling — shutting everything outside out and just focusing on what we need to focus on in here and not what everybody else is saying and thinking," said captain Andrew Ladd.
"At the end of the day, we’re the guys in here doing the work and we have to show up and be accountable to each other."
'We’ve got it backwards': Noel
Noel spent a good part of today talking to his players.
That included some meetings after practice, and while on the ice, he spent one-on-one conversation time with Blake Wheeler, who has one goal so far, Bryan Little, who has three, and Devin Setoguchi, who has two.
"Coaching day," Noel said. "It’s always good to talk to your players. You can never talk to them enough.
"The problem right now is we’re trying to put skill ahead of work. We’ve got it backwards."
Did he learn anything by talking to his players today?
"You always do. It’s all good stuff," he said. "The thing that I find is that we care, we’ve just got things in the wrong order. We’ve got to get them in the right order. That’s my job. That’s what we’re trying to do today."
Jim Slater missed practice today and is out day-to-day with an injury. He should be ready in less than a week, the coach said.
Defenceman Zach Bogosian also skipped practice today; it was called a maintenance day.
Defenceman Mark Stuart, who missed Sunday with a hip issue after crashing into the net late in Friday’s win, said he was hopeful to play Tuesday.
"He could have one leg and be hopeful," Noel smiled. "I have to calm him down."