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A mental health week: Frustrated Jets hope break helps solve goal woes

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NEW YORK -- A few more points would give the Winnipeg Jets' plight a whole new perspective but 22-22-6 -- .500 -- is where they have landed at the mid-season sabbatical.

At the NHL's all-star break, the Jets have authored a January of 3-8-1 and they have generated just 20 goals this month.

It has left them a teetering 10th-place club -- are they going to stay in the playoff conversation with the Eastern Conference eighth-place "line" five points above them or are they going to sink to also-ran status with the last-place clubs five points below them?

"We're back at .500. I don't know that we're real happy about that," Jets coach Claude Noel said after his team was blanked 3-0 by the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. "We've hit a dry spell and it's a little bit frustrating. For us, we're going to have to take a break and regroup when we get back."

The schedule resumes for the Jets next Tuesday in Philadelphia. They will assemble and practise there on Monday.

Until then, the team has scattered in search of some rest and relaxation. The club's chartered aircraft returned to Winnipeg on Tuesday night with only a handful of players on board.

Noel said he was staying in the east for a few days away.

Several players are off to visit family and some, like captain Andrew Ladd and teammates Blake Wheeler, Tanner Glass, Bryan Little and Tim Stapleton, have chartered a boat and are headed for the British Virgin Islands.

Injuries, in particular to defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, a concussion for left-winger Evander Kane and even recent sick-bay stays for Zach Bogosian, Little and Wheeler, have clearly affected the team's overall performance but that is not news in the world of the NHL.

The Jets' offensive challenges have been the most high-profile item for the team in recent weeks

"It's always frustrating when you can't score goals but at the same time, we are creating chances and we are getting those quality scoring chances," Ladd said after Tuesday's game. "It's a little worrisome when you're not getting those."

Indeed, the Jets weren't without their chances in the three games they dropped right before the break, so it's been clear the level of frustration has risen.

In that sense, this break is welcome.

"I think it's nice to just get away from it mentally, get your mind away from hockey," Ladd said. "That's a good thing sometimes. You have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on yourself and the stress builds up and the frustration and it can lead to even worse things. It'll be nice to get refreshed and get excited about coming back into Philly and playing with some energy."

When the team returns for the final 32 games of the season, its offensive challenges and poor road record will be waiting immediately. The Jets play their next four games on the road, and seven of the next nine before an eight-game homestand begins in mid-February.

Glass thinks the road question can be answered with just a little more offence.

"You have to score goals to win," Glass said. "Put a few more in the back of the net. That's the obvious thing. The way to do that starts in our own zone with good communication and good support and I think we're doing some good things save for a period here or there."

Ladd said the Jets are not focused on whether games are at home or on the road.

"That (record) is tough to put your finger on," he said. "To me, I don't really know that it's the road. It just seems to be the games we're involved with. I've liked our effort the last couple of games and we just haven't seemed to have put the puck in the net. Tough, frustrating but we have to keep pushing. It's the only way through it."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2012 C2

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