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Jets like to work from home

Minimum travel, maximum results

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It's enough to make your head spin.

And it has, where the Winnipeg Jets are concerned.

So far, an NHL-low eight home games. A league-high 15 road games.

Their record so far, a not-horrible, not-great 9-10-4.

The routine is about to change. The Jets hope their record is, too.

The MTS Centre will be the site of 13 of the team's next 15 games, beginning tonight at 7:30 p.m. (TSN Jets, 1290) against the Ottawa Senators.

"We've been on the road pretty much all of whatever it is, month-and-a-half," said Jets forward Nik Antropov. "It's nice to have a home stretch.

"We're going to take advantage of it, hopefully."

Since the season started Oct. 9, the longest stint the Jets have had at home is eight days. That came prior to this most recent three-game road trip, when they won all three games they played in their own rink, beating quality opponents in Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia to get to 5-3 on their own ice.

"We've got to take that next step forward," captain Andrew Ladd said Monday. "It's definitely nice to be at home in your own bed, having home-cooked meals and the family, stuff like that."

That off-ice element has been more than most people would realize, Jets forward Jim Slater said.

"It has been a big adjustment," Slater said. "Everyone thinks you just come here and play and it's not like that.

"I'm pretty lucky because I don't have family or kids but there are guys on the team with family and kids that had to move up here and get all situated. Getting used to the new rink a new city, that's definitely an adjustment.

"I think the guys have been great about it, the organization has been on hand to help us, and it's gone pretty smooth. Getting used to systems took some times, and the first couple of games didn't look very good out there. But the main thing is that guys are starting to pick it up and when you see results, you can't argue with them."

The Jets certainly were more competitive and consistent last week during their road trip that yielded a mark of 1-1-1.

They're not all the way there yet, but coach Claude Noel said Monday he sees an opportunity to keep the team moving in the right direction.

"The one thing that's going to be good for us is that it's great to be at home but you have to make hay when you can," he said. "It's not always that easy. The other thing it helps us do is helps us practise. We've haven't done very much of it. It seems like we've been on the road for a month.

"For us, we really get a chance to get re-organized, re-energized. It's a chance for us to get to .500 and to look to get beyond that... get organized, tighten up our team play."

Improving signs have surfaced in the last six games, but the team's not where he wants it yet, Noel said.

"We're giving up leads in games, we're not closing games out and sometimes that's part of maturity and sometimes that's managing the game and we don't manage the game great," he said.

"We're poor giving up penalties. It's clear. Look at the numbers. We gave up way too many power plays and that really takes you out of games."

Winnipeg, at 113 time, has been the most short-handed team in the NHL.

"When you're on the wrong side of the game, it's usually special teams," Noel added. "They've got a power-play goal, you haven't got one and you're one less than them.

"And some of the penalties we take, quite frankly, aren't great. We have to be a lot better. We're tired of talking about it."

With the schedule immediately ahead, it's time to start doing.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2011 C3

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