Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Coach keeps whip at bay

Noel gives players benefit of doubt they'll be ready for Coyotes

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It was a day of introspection and communication, not whip cracking.

After blowing a 4-3 third-period lead in a 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night, Claude Noel and the rest of the Winnipeg Jets went looking for answers on Wednesday.

Thankfully, they won't have to search for too long, what with the Phoenix Coyotes here for tonight's matchup at the MTS Centre.

"New day coming up, new challenge coming up with Phoenix... we can turn the page on (Ottawa) and refocus," said veteran Jets winger Tanner Glass. "Everyone knows that's not the kind of effort we need to win games.

"So today was just kinda, 'Let's put it past us. Let's come today with a good attitude and work ethic and move on.' It's not a lot of tactical things or anything like that. It's just (Tuesday) we weren't mentally sharp."

In the immediate aftermath of the loss to the Sens, Noel said his team had not played intelligently. It's little defensive things, Glass explained, like picking up a guy cutting across the middle or finishing a check.

But Noel hinted Wednesday at another potential factor: all of the injuries means players normally asked to play 10-15 minutes a game are now hopping over the boards more frequently.

And while some flourish with increased responsibility, some also make mental and physical mistakes with that extra workload.

"We had players in the game who were fine for two thirds of the time and as soon as it exceeds that you see breakdowns and that's the problem," Noel said. "That's when you see people playing out of their box. You know it's coming and there's nothing you can do about it.

"It's mental, it's physical. It's all of the above. You've got a 12-minute guy who is really good for 12 minutes. And then he plays 15 and it's not the same. Why is that? I don't know why that is. Sometimes guys can do it OK for two-three games and some guys can do it for eight games and some guys can't do it at all.

"The only time you have that luxury of helping them is when you have depth. But when you've got injuries you deal with those sorts of things. It's part of how you manage."

That, in part, explains why Noel didn't swear up a blue streak on Wednesday or skate his squad into the ground. Instead, he worked them for about a half hour, threw his arm around the collective lot and crossed his fingers they'll respond against the Coyotes.

Asked how his team responded at practice, Noel said:

"Well, they would be demoralized, just like we all are. It would be the low moment in our existence because the players want to win the game. There wouldn't have been much enthusiasm, so we have to move past it, which is what we tried to do in practice.

"We have to focus on the games ahead of us. It is what it is. Chicago played six road games, came home and lost 4-1 to Phoenix (Tuesday night). Chicago couldn't muster anything. It's the same thing, it happens all the time.

"I'm not going to beat up that game. It lingers and it drags on. Nobody likes games like that when you're in them and involved in them and playing in them or coaching them. And you try not to let them linger and that's what I tried to do this morning. Let's move past this thing and let's go.

"I know the team pretty well. Sometimes it's just a feeling." Twitter: @WFPEdTait

The new Winnipeg Jets host the former incarnation of the Jets, now the Phoenix Coyotes, at the MTS Centre Dec. 1.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2011 C2


Updated on Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 11:17 AM CST: embeds slideshow

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