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Focus on the basics helps bring penalty kill back to life

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OTTAWA -- Making up ground fast isn't likely going to be an option.

But you've got to start somewhere when you're at the bottom of the NHL's penalty-killing rankings and Saturday was a very good place to do just that for the Winnipeg Jets.

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The Jets went a perfect three for three against Ottawa's power play, six minutes of peril that turned out very well for the visitors in their 1-0 win.

There was one in each period, including a tripping call to Toby Enstrom that came after Winnipeg had snatched its lead.

"I thought we were aggressive," Jets coach Claude Noel said after the game. "They've got some dangerous guys and (Al) Montoya had to make a couple of saves there in the second period on one-timers that he had to deal with.

"They can zip it around but I thought we did a good job of getting in the lanes and a good job of being aggressive, especially in the third."

It's like a building project, Jets forward and penalty-killer Jim Slater said Saturday.

"It's confidence," he said. "You kill one, then you kill two and then you kill three in a row. We got off to a bad start (this season) but I don't think it's any indication of how this unit kills.

"We have some good guys that will sacrifice their body and it's just that one or two mistakes that we've made have ended up in the back of the net.

"Tonight, Monty helped out on the penalty kills quite a bit so credit goes to him, too."

The Jets' tally on Saturday brings the number to 24 kills in 37 tries this season, now up to 64.9 per cent but still well behind 29th-place Detroit.

Getting on the same page is going to make the numbers rise, Slater insisted.

"Knowing when one guys goes, we all have to be on our toes, too," Slater said. "That's the biggest thing. Maybe we weren't in sync but right now it feels like we understand."

Jets forward James Wright, who's seeing plenty of killing duty because of his speed, said there's still one overriding matter that can help his team get better in this department.

"We kind of got back to focusing on not taking penalties and staying out of the box, that's the best PK you can have by far," Wright said.

"But once we did get on the PK, it's just getting back to our basics and not being too cute, just making sure on those clears."

Wright said it doesn't matter to the team's skaters who's in goal but that a confident Montoya certainly was a factor in Saturday's progress.

"He's a very capable goalie. He obviously proved it tonight. He's 2-0. We all have confidence in both our goalies. He proved he can step in and win a big game for us."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 10, 2013 B3

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