Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Not dwelling on the defeats

Have to move on because 'for us, this is the playoffs': Noel

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Claude NOEL may have been tempted to bust out the whip and chair to discipline the heck out of his Winnipeg Jets with a torturous skate accompanied with a venom-filled speech.

After all, those reactions often come after a team loses two games in a row on the road -- a pair of setbacks that have dropped the Jets out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference -- while straying miles from their blueprint.

 

Instead, the Jets head coach took a different tactic on Saturday after the Jets returned home from losses in Vancouver and Calgary, scheduling an optional skate for Saturday and giving the squad a day off today.

Then it's back to the grind Monday in preparation for their next game Wednesday at home to the Dallas Stars.

"We're not rehashing," said Noel Saturday. "There's a lot of emphasis in the media on the road (record) and the 11 wins. We know these things. We knew this from the onset of the season. We said we were going to have to be close to .500 (on the road) to even legitimately have a chance. We're way below .500 and we're still knocking on the door. We're fortunate from that standpoint.

"But I don't care if we play on the moon or we play at home or we play on the road. It doesn't really matter. We're down to 13 games and for us, this is the playoffs. This is why you play 70-80 games, for the opportunity to be competing at this time of the year. We're pouring everything we can into the game.

"What I do now is judge the will which we play with," Noel continued. "When I look at the games in Vancouver and Calgary, I thought our will to win was good. Did it go our way? No. Did they get some breaks in certain areas? Well, yeah, they did. But that's the way it goes and that's the adversity you're going to have to deal with and to me adversity is healthy. It's good. You want to deal with it and win, but that's how it goes.

"We're going to move forward and attack Monday-Tuesday with vim and vigour and then Wednesday we're pouring everything into the game. We're going to play this thing like a playoff game."

Moving forward isn't a surprising approach, especially given there are now just 13 games left in the regular season -- seven against Southeast Division opponents. But what has to be disturbing for the Jets is this: As much as they talked a good game before heading out on the road last week -- about creating their own noise and taking their impressive home act on the road -- it wasn't consistently evident in the loss to Vancouver and against a depleted Flames squad.

"It's disappointing," said goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. "At home we start great defensively and then create our own chances. That's why we were winning games. And then we go on the road... it's the same thing we've done all year and we've got to change something.

"Vancouver had 20 shots in the first period. Against Calgary, they had a lot of scoring chances in the first 10 minutes. They jump on you right away and so you have to play defensively. But we try to win 6-0 in the first period. It's not going to work like that. We have to be patient. We have to play smart. Defence has to be first in your head, especially on the road."

Winnipeg's road record is now an atrocious 11-19-4 and the schedule still features seven more games away from the MTS Centre in Pittsburgh, Washington, Nashville, Raleigh, Tampa, Sunrise, Fla., and on Long Island.

"The effort's there," began Mark Stuart. "Obviously our road record isn't very good. It hasn't been all year and we've been trying to remedy it all year. I don't really look at it like that anymore. Those were games we needed points in... I'm tired of talking about home and the road. Those are games we desperately needed to win. I can't put my finger on it.

"We're right there. We're giving ourselves a chance to win. But we've got to move on. Every game is huge... we can't dwell on it. We need to use these days to get some rest, work on some things we need to fix and then, most important, concentrate on Wednesday.

"We look at it like we're already in the playoffs. And in the playoffs there's no time to dwell on losses."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 11, 2012 B3

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