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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets' power play provides nice break for opponents

Might be time to 'throw out the book'

Posted: 03/2/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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THE Winnipeg Jets spent some of their rare practice time Friday working on their power play.

It's been a momentum-killer for some time now, including in Thursday's 3-1 win over New Jersey when a second-period five-on-three for 56 seconds didn't even come close to scoring.

In the last 11 games, Winnipeg has just one advantage goal, one-for-29 over the span.

Of course that means that in 10 of the last 11 games, it's been a zero.

"Sometimes on the power play, you need to throw out the book and try to outwork the penalty kill," Jets forward Blake Wheeler said. "That's the simplest solution."

No objection to that was voiced by Jets coach Claude Noel.

"That's sometimes the simplicity you have to get to," he said. "Outwork means different things but it means winning battles."

Noel said Friday he's not going for the panic button, even though the Jets have slipped to 14.9 on the season. They do have 10 power-play goals -- nine of them came in the first nine games of the season.

"You can accentuate it and pay attention to it or you can leave it alone," he said. "There's no recipe, no promise that's going to bring you success. It's execution and routes. We haven't done a lot of it. They get the idea.

"It'll come around. It's cyclical. It always is. It'll come back around. I'm not worried about it."

-- -- --

Without much of a power play at all, the Jets have won five of the last six and have climbed into the eighth and final NHL Eastern Conference playoff spot heading into today's play.

And they've also had recent success winning games cleanly, something that thrills their coach.

"We're getting a lot of clean points. That's huge," the coach said. "We're not sharing anything and we'd like to continue down that road if we could.

"We're above the line. There are a lot of things to be happy about today. Just a sense of accomplishment, that's great. But like I said before, I won't be separating my shoulders patting ourselves on the back.

"We've got work to do."

-- -- --

The coach also took the opportunity Friday for a reminder of all the forecasts of gloom and doom before the club departed on its recent five-game road trip, the longest of the season.

"It's great, from where we came from," Noel said. "People were writing us off before we went on the road. 'It was the season from hell and we're going to be picking first overall,' or whatever you guys had.

"We're just happy we're able to keep it in perspective and we're back in it, back there. And that's what we have to keep doing. I like our group and we're playing good and we're playing with confidence. We feel like we can win games."

-- -- --

Nik Antropov, who blocked a shot with his left ankle and was hobbled for a time Thursday, made it through Friday's full practice and is expected to be a player today.

Antti Miettinen, who returned to the lineup last Sunday but was felled by a shot to the private parts on his first shift, is cleared to play once again. He's an option for the Jets today against Washington.

Miettinen had missed the first 17 games of the season after being injured on the first day of training camp.

-- -- --

The world's tennis stars have nothing to worry about.

The Jets brought out a box of bouncy bright yellow tennis balls Friday, but it was only for an end-of-practice drill.

"We're just trying to get better at blocking shots," Jets coach Claude Noel smiled after the practice at the MTS Centre. "That's all. Rubber pucks might be next. We've got them."

Noel said the drill helps players get in the right lanes to block shots, but spares them the pain a puck would deliver.

"A fun exercise to get the point across," he said.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 2, 2013 C3

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