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Noel heaps praise on former organization

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There was lots of old-home catching up on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena, where new Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel crossed paths with many people he worked with when he was the coach with the Nashville Predators' AHL team in Milwaukee.

"There's a lot of trust in this organization," Noel said. "I can't say enough good things about them.

"It's a really good model for a successful franchise, that they don't operate at the high end of the salary cap. They're an efficient group, well-organized from the top down and they know how to win."

Asked how much Predators' coach Barry Trotz taught him while he was in the organization, Noel paused a moment and then went all mischievous.

"I'm not sure if he taught me or I taught him," Noel smiled before busting himself on the joke.

-- -- --

When Bryan Little of the Jets uncorked a hard, high shot with about five minutes left in the second period, he sent Predators goalie Pekka Rinne to the showers.

The puck, even through Rinne's mask, cut the goalie for 12 stitches.

It was a small blessing for Winnipegger Chet Pickard, who had yielded two goals in the first period. Pickard came back into the game and held the Jets at bay, making 13 saves to pick up a load of confidence.

Pickard's third pro year has already yielded some changes, Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.

"He has really been a pet project for us," the coach said. "We want him to change his style a little bit. He changed his body composition tremendously this summer. He's put a lot of work into his diet, all those areas. The one area where we're still working with Chet is that we're still connecting the dots.

"It's about playing the game and understanding it how it's played."

-- -- --

Leading Winnipeg in icetime on Saturday was defenceman Johnny Oduya, at 17:11, as Noel spread his minutes around.

Rookie Mark Scheifele saw 16:04, mostly on a line with Ben Maxwell and Chris Thorburn.

Noel went all neutral on Scheifele's game, the follow-up start after his four-point performance in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

"Well, he was OK," the coach said.

Scheifele, just 18, had a first-period assist on Paul Postma's goal, giving him five points in two pre-season games.

-- -- --

Spencer Machacek, Postma and Derek Meech had Winnipeg's goals but the Jets were only able to kill one Nashville power play, finishing the night one for four in that department.

Their own power play was two-for-five.

-- -- --

Noel said after the game that he thought some of his veteran players would do more, a subtle message that he's going to be turning his attention to that quickly, even though it's still September.

"There were some good games; some players played well," Noel said. "You see both good and bad. I would have liked to have seen a little more from our veteran players but I understand it's early in the pre-season and sometimes there's not a lot of urgency. But I would have liked to have seen more of that and it's something we'll discuss tomorrow."

-- -- --

Jordin Tootoo's return to the Predators last season, after a going into an NHL/NHLPA rehabilitation program for a month, was the best move of his career, coach Barry Trotz said Saturday.

He ended the season with eight goals and 18 points, matching the best of his career.

"The biggest thing is that he's got his life in order," Trotz said of the 27-year-old right-winger. "He's had a lot of demons and had a lot of things that get in the way. If your life and your head are not clear, then it's just full of clutter.

"He couldn't grow as a hockey player. He's got it in order, and when he came back, I thought he had the best stretch of his career."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 25, 2011 B4

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