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Winnipeg Jets

Jets victory helps build solid foundation

Game preview

They’re all big games, all with impact on the standings. That’s just the way life works in the National Hockey League.

But Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel figures Saturday’s contest with the New Jersey Devils (6 p.m. CBC/TSN Sports Radio) is big for his club for one critical reason: how his squad performs may help solidify its own identity.

“This game is going to important for us tonight,” said Noel after the team’s morning skate. “We had a good game last game. Is this what we are? I’m sure you guys are asking the same question. I’d like to think we’ve taken a positive step and I think the players feel the same way. But we have to put back-to-back, 60-minute consistent efforts together in a lot of ways.

“The team has accepted what it is and sees how we can win, has looked at itself and said if we can work from this foundation. We see what we are and recognize it as a group of 20 that we can accomplish some good things. But it has to be together and it has to be consistent. I’m hoping that’s where we are.”

The Jets are coming off one of their most complete wins of the season, a 1-0 shutout of the Phoenix Coyotes, that improved their record to 10-11-4. Winnipeg is also 4-1 in its last five home games.

New Jersey has dropped three straight after falling 4-2 in Minnesota Friday night.

“We have to really use this month to build what we’re going to see in the New Year,” said Noel. “That’s what we’re building towards. We’ve got to make some ground up, we want to get over .500 and we want to take advantage of our home stand and get into the New Year moving forward and upward.”

The Jets also got some encouraging news on the injury front: defenceman Tobias Enstrom was back skating with the team Saturday morning wearing a red "no-contact" jersey. He could be good to go by the end of the month.

“Right now I’m actually feeling pretty good,” he said. “It’s getting better and better every day and I’m glad to be on the ice again. We haven’t set a timetable yet. I just started skating, so I think we’ll take it day by day and see how it feels later on here. I’m just glad to be out there again. It feels good and hopefully I can get back sooner than later.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks. I’ve been gone from hockey for a long while and being out I’ve really missed the guys and the game. It’s a big part of my life and I’m just happy to be out there again.”

The Jets will again be without Nik Antropov and Eric Fehr Saturday, but hope to have those two and defenceman Randy Jones ready by the end of next week.

“It’s a good thing for us and it’s a good thing for the players here playing because they’ll feel the urgency and that should step up the competition and that’s good,” said Noel. “It’s healthy.”

And so the Jets will ice the same lineup as Thursday’s win over Phoenix, with Ondrej Pavelec once again in goal.

“The same beautiful beauties, the same goalie,” cracked Noel. “ I will let it out of the bag right now because you guys won’t have your pre-game nap this afternoon if I don’t tell you.”

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter:@WFPEdTait

History

Updated on Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 6:23 PM CST: Adds first goal

6:58 PM: Adds first period summary

7:53 PM: Second period stuff

8:33 PM: Adds Jets third goal

8:50 PM: Adds final score

10:34 PM: Gamer

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