Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel can read the National Hockey League standings as well as the next person. And he can be blunt: what he’s seen from his team after one quarter of the season leaves him wanting more.
"Where do we stand at the quarter pole? I don’t like the way we play," began Noel today after practice. "So, does that answer your question? I don’t like the way we play. I just don’t think we play hard enough. We have to play harder. We have to win more battles and we have to play with way more urgency.
"If you’re asking me if I’m happy… we’re OK. We’re one game under .500. There isn’t a panic or anything, but we know we can get better. We know we can play better. We have to play harder and we need more production from more players. It’s that simple. If I get more ‘A’ games, everything else will look after itself. That’s what we need in a nutshell and they know that."
The Jets are 5-6-1 after 12 games, third in the Southeast Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference. They’ll play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday at 6 p.m. (CBC/TSN 1290) and the Boston Bruins on Sunday before heading out for their longest road trip of the season.
Newcomer Eric Tangradi, acquired in a trade Wednesday with Pittsburgh, was not able to get a flight to Winnipeg in time to make Thursday’s practice, but Noel said he will be immediately inserted into the lineup. Goaltender Eddie Pasquale will also suit up, presumably as the back-up to Ondrej Pavelec, after his recall from St. John’s. Noel said Montoya’s ‘lower-body’ injury will keep him out at least this week and will be further evaluated on a weekly basis.
Meanwhile, defenceman Zach Bogosian is ready to go, but Noel said his return to the lineup will be a game-time decision.