Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A human Swiss Army Knife

No longer disabled, Kane should suit up against Leafs Was tough for winger to miss Jets' No.1 win Blue-collar Slater does everything (and didn't cost that much)

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If it's true the Winnipeg Jets must be a blue-collar, hard hat and lunch-pail squad to be successful -- and the evidence was pretty compelling in Monday's 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins -- then it could be argued Jim Slater is the foreman.

The versatile centre is more than just a fourth-line grinder. He can roll up his sleeves and swing an axe, work the jackhammer and then pick up a pencil and tinker with details on the blueprint.

Yes, through four games this season he's scored twice, got into a scrap and has a very firm grasp on his role on this squad as a Swiss Army Knife-type player.

In fact, it was Slater who scribbled this prophetic message on the whiteboard in the Jets' dressing room prior to the team's first victory:

"Tough situations don't last, tough teams do."

"It's just a quote that I live by," he said after Tuesday's morning practice at the MTS Centre. "Situations come and go, but you have to remain strong throughout those tough situations.

"That was a great all-round victory. Everyone played well for us. We were working, we were hitting, we were getting pucks deep, we were shooting the puck, Pav (goaltender Ondrej Pavelec) played great... that's how this team has to play. We're hard-working. It's a blue-collar team and I think it fits this town well.

"That's what we want to bring every time when we come to the rink."

All that said, when this theory was put to captain Andrew Ladd -- the idea that Monday's win was the perfect blueprint for this team -- he countered with his own take: every team in the NHL has to have the same sandpaper and simple elements to its game if it wants to be a contender, whether it is the Penguins, the Detroit Red Wings, the Boston Bruins or, heck, even the dream team Canada sent to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"I just don't think it really matters what kind of team you are," said Ladd, "that's the way you need to play in this league, period. You look at the Penguins, even when they have (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeny) Malkin, when they're winning they're doing those little things. I think keeping it simple and getting pucks to the net creates second chances and rebounds and after that you can make plays and be skilled. It's just getting that initial drive to get going."

And although the Jets' Top 6 forwards have yet to strike fear in the opposition, Ladd believes categorizing this squad as just blue collar is type-casting it unfairly.

"We have guys in here that can make plays and put the puck in the net when given the chance," he said. "I know Claude (Noel) doesn't want to take that creativity away from us, but you've got to understand there's a time and there's a place. You have to pick the right times to be creative.

"Really, when it comes down to it, playoff hockey is played the same way. You have to have that mindset and engrave it in there that that's what you have to do every time. It'll open things up and then you can take advantage of those opportunities. If you looked at our most successful times last year: We had four lines that came at teams with speed and battled and we just out-worked teams. The first three games we didn't see that and we've got to get back to just going hard 100 per cent."

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

 

WINGER Evander Kane was back at practice on Tuesday after missing the Pittsburgh game with an undisclosed 'lower-body' injury, believed to be the result of a shot block in the loss to Phoenix on Saturday.

Kane wouldn't confirm that he would be in the lineup against the Maple Leafs, but head coach Claude Noel said "it looks like he's in."

"It was definitely tough to not play but it was great for the guys to get a win," Kane said. "It's no fun being out. My first year I broke my foot. We had 14 games that month and I was out for four weeks. It's definitely tough and I hate doing it.

"You're around the room and you're around the guys as much as you can. But, definitely, when you're not playing you don't have that same mindset as everybody else on the team. Everybody wants to be around when you're winning and I want to get back to that."

Meanwhile, defenceman Ron Hainsey -- who left Monday's game in the second period -- did not practise and his spot will be filled by Winnipegger Derek Meech, who will see his first action of the season.

"Derek's shown himself to be a good player. He's got experience in the league, his skating is his strength. He's a smart player so I think he's going to have good energy," Noel said. "He's dying to play. He'll get an opportunity and we'll be patient with him as we are with all of them."

AND THE STARTER IS... Here's Noel when asked if he had a plan to rotate his goaltenders with the Jets playing two games in two nights: "I don't have a plan. I mean, I have a plan but my plan is to talk to (goaltending coach) Wade Flaherty. That's my plan. He'll help me through that. How would you not want to continue down the road with Pavelec? He played outstanding. He looks like he's a go-to guy so why would you not be going to him?"

NO WORRIES: The Jets' power play may be without a goal through four games, but Noel is convinced that goose egg is about to be smashed.

"I don't have any concerns about the power play," he said. "It'll come around. It's a matter of time. To me, a power play is cyclical, As long as you're doing the right things it's always about the same: the power play is about scoring chances and how you create them. We're getting them.

"Now (assistant coach) Pascal (Vincent, who is in charge of the unit), he's near death. He's near suicidal. If you guys could help him I'd be very appreciative."

 

-- Tait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 19, 2011 C3

History

Updated on Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 2:44 PM CDT: Checked format.

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