Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Noel opts for peace over punishment

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AFTER a pair of troubling home-ice losses to the Washington Capitals, there was great interest in what the Winnipeg Jets' next move would be.

As in, what would they do Saturday, a scheduled practice day between games? The Tampa Bay Lightning are at the MTS Centre tonight (7 p.m., TSN Jets, TSN 1290).

Some thought it would be a practice, possibly difficult or possibly short. Others wondered if a complete day off wasn't the answer.

The Jets opted for a meeting, a light workout and then a recovery day.

"We just finished five (games) in seven (days)," said Jets coach Claude Noel, the man who made the decision. "It's more about tomorrow than today. I think today's about getting them in a good place and go from there."

Neither Noel nor several of his players were running away from the question of fatigue on Saturday. It is obviously a factor but most pointed out all 29 other NHL teams are dealing with it, too.

"I don't know it plays a huge factor," said Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey. "I thought our legs in the first period (Friday) looked good. There have been games during the travel time that we've clearly not felt great. One or two. But I don't think it's a big factor.

"Everyone's dealing with it."

Noel said managing the fatigue is more important.

"You wear down," he said. "It's emotional. It's pressure. You're engaged in it and it's very constant. And there's travel in there that... you have to be smart how you manage things.

"You'd like to practise but you've got to be a little bit smarter than that. You look at some things we did in the game... we could use the practice on the power play, some of the skills. But not at the sake of the energy in the game.

"When I looked in January at the situation we're in, getting through March was a big task. That's what I looked at, who we'd be playing the magnitude of the games in the schedule. We're sitting here in a decent position with 16 games to go very much in control of our own destiny. We've got to produce. We all know that. Our focus is singular.

"You need a lot of emotion and enthusiasm to play this game. You can't lose sight of that."

ON THE WALKING WOUNDED: Injury updates are taking up a fair amount of time these days, but Saturday yielded what could be some good news. Noel hinted strongly defenceman Toby Enstrom could play tonight, after missing 19 games with an upper-body injury. He has played only 13 games this season.

"Looks like he might be able to turn the corner," Noel said with a sly smile and a raised eyebrow at reporters on Saturday. "So we'll see if we can get him in there."

Defencemen Mark Stuart and Ron Hainsey will both be game-time decisions tonight. Stuart missed Friday's game after being banged hard by Alex Ovechkin Thursday and Hainsey didn't finish Friday's game after having taken a hard dump-in off his hand. "It's not great but it's better than if it hit me in the face," Hainsey said.

Zach Bogosian, who said he suffered a stinger on Friday, expects to be fine to go tonight.

Forwards Jim Slater and Anthony Peluso, both out with hand injuries, remain week-to-week, Noel said.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 24, 2013 B3

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