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Ice getting thinner for final few

Pasquale gone, rest try to keep from dwelling on cuts to come

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In the "no surprise here" file, the Jets sent netminder Eddie Pasquale back to the St. John's IceCaps on Wednesday.

Pasquale, 22, impressed many with his steady performance in net against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, where he stopped 21 of 23 shots in the 2-1 loss. The IceCaps regular will join fellow goalies Jussi Olkinuora and Michael Hutchinson to battle for action on the Rock.

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Jets coach Claude Noel had some, ahem, firm words for his squad during practice at the MTS Centre Wednesday, telling them sharply to call out to each other more during play. The players certainly piped up more during defensive drills after that, calling to each other as they fought for the puck.

"We're expecting more from our players in communicating. We've talked about it now for quite some time," Noel said afterward. "I think it's really hard to defend unless you take control and try to identify who you have and what you have in situations. The only way to do that is through communication."

The players weren't surprised to see the intensity ramped up at this point in camp, especially after a rare day off and with only two pre-season games left. "We were a bit sloppy today, and he was letting us know that it wasn't good enough," centre Bryan Little said. "It's just trying to get us ready and everyone focused for the season."

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The Jets finally fit into one practice group and a single dressing room Wednesday after five players were released the day before. Until now, most of the younger players had a room of their own; now, guys such as Mark Scheifele get to put on their skates with the rest of their teammates. That makes it feel like "more of a team rather than a training camp," blue-liner Zach Redmond said.

Winger James Wright agreed. "It's been a bit of a cluster with the back-and-forth," he said. "It felt like if you weren't playing with the same guys, you wouldn't be seeing them for a while. So it's better this way... seeing everyone out on the ice at the same time, minus one guy (injured defender Zach Bogosian) was nice."

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The Jets would appear to have just three more decisions to go. At forward, taking that as good news but not saying much, is centre Patrice Cormier. "I only wanted to stay healthy, first of all; that was my main goal, and I've been able to take care of my body to stay healthy," said Cormier, who has one goal in four pre-season appearances.

Cormier, with 40 career NHL games, including 10 last season for the Jets, might be an underdog to make the season-opening cut, but he said he makes no assumptions about anything right now. And nobody's saying much.

"Everybody knows there's 15 forwards left. We can all do the math, so right now is the worst time to be over-thinking things."

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Gritty winger Chris Thorburn is usually a pretty gung-ho guy, but he put on a serious face for the cameras Wednesday as the topic turned to the battles in camp. Thorburn, who scored the Jets' lone goal in Monday night's 2-1 loss to the Oilers, said he doesn't tune in to media buzz about who might make the cut... even as some pundits wonder if Thorburn's job could be up for grabs. "It's always competitive... "I just try and keep it simple and hope everything works out."

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Blue-liner Zach Redmond, who seemed to fit right in with the Jets until his scary skate cut last season, is one of the defencemen now battling to stay with the club. He's trying not to think too much about that part, he said. "There's not much I can do, except for on the ice and in practice, and I'm doing my best there," he said.

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Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel was handed a three-game suspension this week for hacking at Buffalo Sabres goon John Scott after the 6-8 enforcer threatened to jump him. What would Jets skill forward Bryan Little do in the same situation? "I can't say I would have done the same thing," Little said. "But I probably wouldn't have wanted to fight Scott, that's for sure... It happened really quick. I wouldn't have thought him lining up next to me, he would jump me like (Scott did to Kessel)."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 26, 2013 D9

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