Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Captain says squad must shape up fast

Ladd, defenceman set out tactics for scoring new team's first win

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There is no special magic potion for the Winnipeg Jets. And if Andrew Ladd & Co. could have devised some sort of quick fix, it would have been implemented long ago.

A winless start to the season has the Jets now collectively preaching the idea of simplifying their game to get it pointed in the right direction.

Yes, it's the ol' back-to-basics, dump-and-chase, hard-hat and lunch-pail approach.

"There's a lot of things we can get better at throughout the course of the game," Ladd said Sunday after an optional skate. "Obviously there are all the turnovers and then there's big shifts in every game -- after goals, first shift of the game, first shift of the period -- that we need to be stronger at and better at.

"We need to keep it more simple and create offence from getting pucks deep and to the net."

Something has to change in that department, as the Jets have just five goals in three games but have surrendered 13. Then there is the power play: 0 for 13; the penalty kill (ranked 27th), the .852 save percentage for goaltenders Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason...

"It is early; it's three games. But we've got a big week coming up," defenceman Mark Stuart said. "Give the teams credit that we played, but we made the same mistakes. In Chicago, we got a two-goal lead and then let them back into it and couldn't come back in the end. (In Phoenix) they beat us to pucks, but a lot of it was us in our game. We need to concentrate on our game first and all that other stuff will take care of itself.

"It's more than giveaways," Stuart added. "When you're losing, I think it's important to play a simple game, and that's dumping pucks in and playing physical and winning races to pucks. As you press more and try to make plays, you're going to turn it over in the neutral zone, and that's going to hurt you even more.

"I think we need to concentrate on the simple game right now until we get out of this hole."

That might be the critical point here in the Jets' rebirth in Winnipeg. The longer this team struggles, the more its game gets examined under the microscope. The longer it goes winless, the crankier the coach and players get. And for a team that has designs on a playoff spot, an iffy start can trash the idea of playing meaningful games come next April.

"It's definitely frustrating when we know we're capable of playing against any team in the league," Ladd said. "The tough part is not letting that pile up and add up and then get more frustrated. Somehow you've got to find a way to stay positive but push each other to be at the level we need to be at. We're still only three games into the year. We want to get ourselves out of this hole as quickly as possible so it doesn't keep getting worse and worse.

"We've got to find a way in this room to get this turned the other way, and sometimes all it takes is a couple goals or a lucky bounce. We just need a lot more focus on the little things we need to do." Twitter: @WFPEdTai

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 17, 2011 C3

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