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This article was published 13/3/2013 (1148 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Claude NOEL knows better. The Winnipeg Jets know better. And so, if there was even a hint of temptation to bask a little longer in the glow of Tuesday's spanking of the Toronto Maple Leafs -- to slip this thing into cruise control for a day and enjoy the ride -- it was snuffed out in a nanosecond by the boss and his troops.
"You can't take your foot off the pedal," said Noel Wednesday following practice at the MTS Iceplex. "We don't want to get back to mediocrity at home and just because we won one game and played the right way... I think you try to establish your mental state in practice and today I thought it was a little loose early but it got better as the practice went on.
"You've got to buckle down and get ready because it's not going to be easy. The Rangers are coming in here and we've got to be prepared to start again."
And so the season-long quest for more consistency continues, even in the wake of an 8-3-1 run for the Jets that has put them right back in the NHL Eastern Conference playoff discussion. The Jets' next three games come against teams within three points of them, including today's opponent, the New York Rangers followed by a quick trip to Ontario and dates in Toronto and Ottawa on the weekend.
Next week, the Jets have a four-game homestand that opens with Boston and then features three in a row against teams behind them in the standings -- back-to-back with the Washington Capitals, followed by the Tampa Bay Lightning. After that it's two of their next three against the Southeast Division's Carolina Hurricanes.
In other words, what looks so promising now can be quickly flushed with a bad run in the next chunk of the schedule.
"We go right back at the Rangers-Leafs on Thursday-Saturday here and those are two teams right around us," said Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey. "We need to continue to make hay against these teams that are right around us to really get ourselves in a position where we could maybe put some distance between ourselves and the pack behind us. We need to continue to string wins together to get a little space, otherwise it will be the same game over and over where it's the feeling of do or die, if you will.
"We're in that group that is five or six teams that are so close together that when you're playing them it's like the playoffs because the movement in the standings can be so huge, especially if you can get two points without giving up that third. We're in that stretch now where all the games are critical. It's fun."
The Jets spent a good portion of Wednesday's session with the media discussing the Leafs' win and how their physical play and collective will -- while mixed with their speed and solid special-teams play -- is their perfect blueprint to success. But just to hammer home his yesterday-was-great-now-do-it-again-tomorrow message, here was Noel's response when asked if the Jets had established themselves as a hard team to play against:
"I wouldn't say we've established that. I think that after (Tuesday) night we've convinced ourselves or established that within ourselves. But it's one game. The challenge really is to determine if that's the way we want to play and that's the way we need to play to be successful. We know one thing: it has brought success for us and so it should be a fairly easy sell with the players.
"But saying and doing are two different things and before this I can't sit here and say we were a hard team to play against because some games, whether at home or on the road, I didn't see that consistently enough. You have to establish some consistency in your game in order to start walking like you're a winner game in and game out. We're trying to establish that.
"The physicality of our game and the intensity really led to a solid 60-minute game," added Noel.
"It showed in the scoring chances we got -- 19-13 -- which is quite a bit more than we've had in the past and I think it's just from playing 60 minutes and playing with some intensity. That's going to be one of the key things here and home.
"And getting the fans involved just like we did last year. I think it's fair for the fans to expect more of us. We should expect more from ourselves. (Tuesday) night we were proud of the way we played and that's the way we have to continue to play."
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THE THIRD CHUNK
A look at the third quarter of Jets season in their condensed 48-game schedule:
Sunday, March 10@ New JerseyN.J. 3 Wpg. 2 (SO)
Tuesday, March 12vs. TorontoWpg. 5 Tor. 2
Thursday, March 14vs. NYR
Saturday, March 16@ Toronto
Sunday, March 17@ Ottawa
Tuesday, March 19vs. Boston
Thursday, March 21vs. Washington
Friday, March 22vs. Washington
Sunday, March 24vs. Tampa Bay
Tuesday, March 26@ Carolina
Thursday, March 28@ Pittsburgh
Saturday, March 30vs. Carolina