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No rest for the spectacular

Pavelec playing too well to take a game off

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There is a possibility Claude Noel could over-think this. After all, this is a business where coaches often lean on formulas so complicated and convoluted a team of scientists could spend eons deciphering the pros and cons of every decision.

Or he could go with his hunch. And the Winnipeg Jets' head coach -- professional bench boss that he is -- has come to this conclusion: Ondrej Pavelec has been spectacular lately, so he'll ride the hot hand and the Czech netminder, for the 12th consecutive game, will likely be in goal today against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"You have to balance, you have to try and use common sense... sometimes we lack that... but it's a lot easier when a player is playing so well," Noel said Friday after Jets' practice. "He's hard to remove. I don't mean that only about him, but all players. When he's playing that well it's a pretty easy decision. That's the last thing I worry about when he's playing well."

Pavelec, of course, isn't about to storm into the coach's office and ask for a vacation day. Not only would the goaltenders' union revoke his membership card, his competitive desire would be questioned. Fact is, if Noel had walked into the Jets' dressing room after their impressive win over the Washington Capitals and demanded Pavelec shower and be ready for a midnight contest, he would have been first on the ice.

"You want to play games, right?" began Pavelec Friday. "I'm happy I can play and that the coach trusts me. Everybody wants to play. It's why you work out in the summer, to be able to play whenever they tell you to play."

Asked if he knew what his longest streak of career consecutive starts is, be it in junior, in the AHL or NHL and Pavelec shrugged.

"I have no idea."

But therein begs some critical questions for Noel and the Jets, although they certainly don't have to be answered immediately:

How much is too much for Pavelec?

Can he continue his development and be a guy who starts 65-plus games?

And if he does become that much of a workhorse, will he have anything left should this franchise qualify for the Stanley Cup derby?

Noel said Friday he doesn't have a maximum starts number in mind for Pavelec and insisted he's got a great deal of faith in No. 2 netminder Chris Mason.

"The only decision I worry about is rest and the longer issue... what happens later down the road?" Noel said.

"I've got to get Chris playing. He's part of our team and he's a good goalie."

Now, understand this about Pavelec. He's on a roll and wants to play. But hidden beneath that competitive veneer is a dude with a deep sense of team and a sly sense of humour that is sometimes lost in his Czech accent.

"If you feel good in the net, if you feel confident you want to play right away," he said. "It's up to the coach. It's a team sport.

"Besides, the way I look at it, if I don't play I get the best seat in the building."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 19, 2011 C4

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