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Jets aces qualify for fighter pilot's helmet

Headpiece Stuart's idea; Setoguchi first to wear it

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WINNIPEG Jets alternate captain Mark Stuart was getting all the credit Saturday for the team's newest reward idea, a real fighter pilot's helmet that will serve as a trophy for exceptional service in a given game.

Right-winger Devin Setoguchi was the first recipient after his two-goal game that helped the Jets defeat the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 at the MTS Centre on Friday night.

Setoguchi's second goal of the game decided the matter, coming with 2:56 remaining in regulation time.

"Stewy came up with it -- either MVP of the game or someone who had a good game, something inspirational," Setoguchi said Saturday. "I feel honoured to be the first one to wear it and hopefully it won't be the last time I get it."

As holder of the helmet, Setoguchi had it packed away in his gear for the road trip that starts today with a game in Montreal (noon, CBC, TSN 1290).

Jets captain Andrew Ladd said the idea came from Stuart and received a big assist from True North chairman and Jets governor Mark Chipman in acquiring it.

"You've seen it all over and we wanted to get something original to our group, Winnipeg and our team, and Stewy came up with the idea to get the helmet, which I thought was great," Ladd reported. "We asked Chipper to see if he could help us out to find one, and sure enough he came through."

Ladd said the fighter-pilot helmet's arrival Friday was perfect timing.

"It was nice to finally have it and to implement it in our group and while we're winning some hockey games, too," Ladd said. "Hopefully we'll be able to keep passing it out.

"I think it's nice to just show guys or be able to recognize guys who are having good performances and helping the team.

"It's just another team thing that helps bring this group closer together. I don't think it hurts in any regard."

Jets head coach Paul Maurice sounded more than pleased to see the team add another element of identity from within.

"I think it's awesome-looking," Maurice said. "That's the players -- I had nothing to do with that. I like all the things that are player traditions -- all of them.

"When I got here, I kind of asked what it is they did, not just in that way, but everything. What is it that you guys do that makes this different? And the list was a little short. I had nothing to do with this. It was all them. But those are the little pieces that bind guys together, so I think it's awesome.

"And it's cool-looking and it's not a great big goofy fedora thing."

-- -- --

In Maurice's short tenure, there are some serious statistical moments in the right direction.

Rookie defenceman Jacob Trouba, for instance, is plus-13 in the nine games Maurice has coached. Trouba's defence partner, Mark Stuart, is plus-nine.

"Some of it's luck, probably, and a lot of it you don't have anything to do with, but it's a good thing," Trouba said.

"Not to focus on it, but you want to be a plus player and it's something Stewy and I have tried to focus on the last couple of weeks."

As well, rookie centre Mark Scheifele has three goals and eight points in the nine games, where he's plus-10.

-- -- --

With the priority turning to learning a more specific system of own-zone defence, the Jets have reduced some of their vulnerabilities in Maurice's time.

They have given up 20 goals in the nine games. In the nine previous to his arrival, it was 35 goals against.

Patience, as in sticking to the plan, has been key.

"They've been pretty good at not trying to break the game open with plays you can't make twice," the coach said. "If you can't replicate it, we really don't care to see it."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2014 B3

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