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Jets add a Little dash of changes

Noel hopes to stir some confidence into his shaken array of forwards

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OTTAWA -- The mixologist was back at it again Friday, as promised.

Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel had three different lines on the ice at the Bell Sensplex for practice once the team arrived in the snow-blown nation's capital.

The coach was disappointed after Thursday's home 3-2 loss to Toronto and vowed there would be some changes for today's matinee at Scotiabank Place against the Ottawa Senators (1 p.m., CBC, TSN 1290).

This time, that meant Bryan Little was back between Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler; Olli Jokinen centred a new line with Evander Kane and Nik Antropov; and Alex Burmistrov was between Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kyle Wellwood.

The fourth line with centre Jim Slater and wingers James Wright and Chris Thorburn remained the same brew for now.

"I'm just trying to get some people going a little bit," a tight-lipped Noel said Friday. "We're stuck a little bit, not creating a lot of offence.

"Right now we're just trying to move some things around and see what will go. Whether they are that way tomorrow will be determined tomorrow."

Putting the Little-Ladd-Wheeler trio back together is like comfortable stuff for the Jets.

"Possibly," Noel said. "It's just trying to sort through this stuff, figure out what's working and what's not.

"For a period of time the lines were going and now they're not. There's just not a lot of time to prepare. You've just got to try to get things going the best you can. Sometimes there's some chemistry and excitement that comes from being back together and we're trying to create some of those things."

Little, who had been doing pretty well on the right wing with Ladd on the left and a variety of centres, including Burmistrov in the last game, said he didn't mind another move.

"I'm not going to argue with it," he said. "Centre is my natural position. So wherever they see fit, I'll play without much of a fight. I don't mind going back.

"We know the three of us have some chemistry. Hopefully it works tomorrow."

Little said the changes are urgent.

"I think there's more desperation right now, more pressure on us to go out and do something," he said. "With the short season, the games matter a lot more and you don't have as much time to get the chemistry going."

Noel didn't spend a lot of time critiquing it on Friday but disassembling Jokinen with Kane and Wheeler was a focus.

The trio had been unproductive and was a combined minus-17 over the previous six games.

"I'm well aware of their plus and minuses, mostly their minuses, so if there's a reason for that, and there usually (is), it's one of the reasons you make changes," the coach said.

"There are bothersome things in a lot of areas, either the balance of those players playing all on the same line," he said. "Do you move them? Are you helping them? Are you not? There's a lot of things to look at but I'm not going to sit here and explain exactly what I see in detail.

"Right now, I'm trying to help them in a lot of different ways, allow them to help our team as well."

For the veteran Wellwood, the switching is just another day of the new normal in a short season.

"Yeah. It's a building team that wants to get in the playoffs and they're looking for the right mix and chemistry to take you there," he said. "Until you have something established that's working well, you've got to keep changing the formula."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 9, 2013 C2

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