Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel said last Saturday he'd be pushing for more from his veterans this week.
His assistant coach, Charlie Huddy, running the show on Sunday in Carolina, said there are reasons some regulars ease their way to a better level during training camp, but that he'd be supporting his boss's request for more urgency from them.
It's on the line now.
Jets' front-line offensive players, Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler, certainly elevated their games Wednesday night at the MTS Centre, delivering the third-period goals to lift Winnipeg to a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes before 15,004 customers at the MTS Centre.
Carolina's Tim Brent had sent the visitors -- outshot 38-18 and outchanced all night -- ahead with a pretty deke on a breakaway in the second period's first minute.
The anxious fans had to suffer through what seemed like an endless array of fruitless chances before Kane and Wheeler, then Kane again into an empty net, finally broke Brian Boucher's flawless goalkeeping on shots 31, 24 and 37 of the night.
"I'm watching everything," Noel said after the win. "I know they wanted to do better than the night before.
"I don't really know them. I'm making judgements on what I saw (on video) in the summer. I'm not really sure if I got the answer to that question, 'Have they ramped it up?' They all know clearly that they're being judged in every facet of everything."
It seemed kind of cold, but the bigger message from Noel is that there won't be any shortcuts for anybody.
"If you assume you were a player here last year and you played 24 minutes, you may not start with 24," he said. "You're going to earn everything you get here.
"I respect that you were a first-rounder, an eighth-rounder, a free agent, but we're going on merit. I'm doing that in games, in practices. I told them I'm watching everything..."
Kane, who had his second and third goals of the pre-season, certainly appeared more interested Wednesday night, but afterwards he was beaming about the fans.
"Our fans have already shown that they're the best in the league," he said after recording nine shots on goal. "They've shown that they appreciate us and we appreciate them."
The win puts the Jets at a perfect 2-0 on their home ice this September, and their pre-season mark is now 3-3, with just Friday's home game against Nashville to go.
The Hurricanes dressed a lesser lineup than the one that defeated lesser Jets 4-0 in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, and they were welcomed to Winnipeg with another crowd that was ready well before puck-drop.
Wednesday night might not have possessed the same kind of anticipation as last week's opener, but they roared for a video-scoreboard snippet of the Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne, scoring one of his many famous goals for the old Jets.
They loved the home team's start, too, with early chances by the youngster many of them came to see, 18-year-old Mark Scheifele, who gave Hurricanes' defenceman Jay Harrison a heartbeat-skip with a slick move in the game's first minute.
The line of Kane, Scheifele and Jason Gregoire produced Winnipeg's best chances most of the night.
"I've said this all the time -- Scheifs has really good vision, he's a really good hockey player," Kane added.
Scheifele, already with three goals in the pre-season, came the closest to adding a fourth during the second period but settled for an assist on Kane's insurance goal.
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