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Pavelec facing peer pressure

Fails to garner spot on ESPN Top 25 goalie ranking

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Ondrej Pavelec answers questions following practice at Iceplex on Monday.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Ondrej Pavelec answers questions following practice at Iceplex on Monday. Photo Store

Ondrej Pavelec is not getting a lot of love from one of the biggest media outlets covering the NHL.

ESPN is ranking the best players in the league by position and on Monday released its' goaltenders list. And Pavelec -- who led the league in starts last year -- wasn't among the Top 25. In fact, he didn't appear on their on-line list at all, but apparently ranked 27th after a poll of its experts.

"That's their opinion, but it's probably fair until his numbers change," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "Players get ranked a lot of times according to numbers and I think it's probably fair."

Pavelec finished with a 21-20-3 record last year and, if you were to conduct a poll of the dressing room, would have earned a lot of votes as the team's MVP.

But there's also no escaping some of his other numbers, including a .905 save percentage and 2.80 goals against average last season. Those stats will improve, Noel & Co. believe, with a better overall team approach to defending.

"I'm confident in our goaltending and I think our goaltending can help us get in the playoffs," Noel said. "We're going to have to play a good team game and our goalies are going to have to do their part.

"(Goaltending) is part of the solution. Your players have to check better, we have to do some things better from the previous two years to get into the playoffs. And goaltending is also going to have to pick up a little bit more."

 

THE ESPN GOALIE RANKINGS

1. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers

2. Jonathan Quick, Kings

3. Tuukka Rask, Bruins

4. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets

5. Pekka Rinne, Predators

6. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings

7. Craig Anderson, Senators

8. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks

9. Antti Niemi, Shars

10. Cory Schneider, Devils

11. Roberto Luongo, Van.; 12. Carey Price, Mtl.; 13. Mike Smith, Phx.; 14. Ryan Miller, Buff.; 15. Braden Holtby, Wash.; 16. Cam Ward, Car. 17. James Reimer, Tor.; 18. Martin Brodeur, N.J. 19. Jonas Hiller, Ana.; 20 (three-way tie): Niklas Backstrom, Minn.; Viktor Fasth, Ana.; Kari Lehtonen, Dall.; 23. Jonathan Bernier, Tor.; 24. Ray Emery, Pha.; 25. Jaroslav Halak, St.L.

-- OUCH REPORT: The Jets currently have three players, all forwards, on the shelf and listed as day to day: Adam Lowry, Chris Thorburn and Andrew Gordon. Jimmy Lodge, who had been injured but skating, was reassigned to Saginaw of the OHL on Monday.

-- FYI: It's a storyline that has already drawn a ton of attention and, it looks like, will continue to do so through this week's exhibition games: who centres the No. 2 line with Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi?

In the first preseason game last Saturday in Belleville it was rookie Mark Scheifele, who picked up an assist in a five-point night from that line (Kane two goals, Setoguchi two assists).

But at practice at Monday it was veteran Olli Jokinen between the two snipers with Scheifele between James Wright and Michael Frolik when Group 1 was on the ice.

Asked if he thought he was auditioning for the role Jokinen, who has 1,087 games under his belt, said:

"I don't really think that way. I think it's more you guys (media) who like to make fantasy teams and lines. As a player, you do your best every day and try to get better every day. You play with whoever and whenever you step on the ice you try to do your best."

Jokinen's message: the regular season opener may be in two weeks, but it's way too early to read anything into line combinations.

"Every team is different," he said. "When I was in Calgary the lines were set in stone in the first day of camp and that was the way (Brent) Sutter was running over there. I've been on teams where you didn't play a single game with the guys you started the regular season with."

-- PAV TO PLAY: Noel wouldn't confirm who the starting goalie will be for Tuesday's exhibition tilt with the Oilers, but Pavelec did say he would play. And, just like a lot of vets, he knows he has to get the work in now to get ready, but would also like to fast forward to the real games.

"I like the training camp we had last year after the lockout (short camp, no preseason games)," said Pavelec with a grin. "But it's nice to have some games before the season. It's really up to the coach what the plan is going to be, I'm just going to go in when they tell me.

"I like to play the real games. It's part of the game. I'm not saying I don't like it, I just can't wait until the season starts.

"I think there are six exhibition games left. I don't know how many games I'm going to play, but I want to have that confidence right away and be confident in the net. That's my goal."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 17, 2013 D4

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