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PP and PK are both MIA

Jets have to be better when anyone is in the box

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Dissect the Winnipeg Jets' 5-8-1 record any which way you want.

One thing is clear through 14 games -- the team's record would substantially better if either its power play or its penalty killing, or both, were just marginally better.

Sunday night at the MTS Centre was just another case in point.

The Boston Bruins collected the only power-play goal of the game, early in the third period, and the result was a 3-2 victory.

The league charts tell part of the tale. Winnipeg's power play was ranked 14th as of Monday at 18 per cent. Its penalty killing was an NHL-worst 30th at 65.9 per cent.

But more revealing is this: In 11 of their 14 games this season, one team's power play has made a meaningful difference in the result. It's gone the Jets' way in just three of those 11 instances.

And when the margins of victory are becoming razor-thin already -- Winnipeg has played six straight one-goal decisions, ignoring one empty-net marker -- you can see that the few power-play or penalty-killing minutes are the most important of the games.

"I think special teams in general is the battle you want to win," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said Monday before the team headed off to Buffalo to begin a five-game road trip. "They (Boston) had a power-play goal and we didn't and that was the difference in the game yesterday.

"So there are times when you're getting shots through and things are going your way and sometimes when they're not. I thought we had some good looks a couple of times yesterday but it's obviously something that needs to get going for us to get on the right track."

Ladd said the Jets are talking about strategies and plays.

"Any time your power play's struggling, you want to simplify, get pucks to the net and bodies to the net," he said. "That's been the message and now it's up to us to get the job done."

Jets coach Claude Noel said Monday chances have not been that frequent. The season's average is 3.58 power plays per game but it's just 2.4 per game in the last five.

"It's not like we're getting six chances a game; that's the first thing," he said. "We're getting a couple of chances a game and we're not creating very much on it."

Few chances, few goals. In fact, none in the last five games, while opponents have scored four.

"There's not a lot of in-zone time," Noel said. "Don't worry. We talk about it enough. We watch clips. At the end of the day, I'm the one that's responsible for special teams and all of those things. We have people that dig in and manage that area but at the end of the day I'm watching it as well."

The Jets don't appear to have a pure shooter like Steven Stamkos or James Neal, both of whom have burned them already this season.

So what to do?

"Right now we're having a tough time dumping it in and getting it back," said defenceman Zach Bogosian. "I think that's something, smarter dumps, but for right now we just have to get back to basics, keep things simple and get it up to the point when there's a point shot or working down low and getting it to the net and following pucks to the net."

And keep looking forward to breaking out with the man advantage, Ladd insisted.

"Personally, I think you're excited as a player to get that opportunity," he said. "It's something we need to improve on and make sure we're taking advantage of in key parts of the game. And if not scoring goals, gain momentum in getting chances and being able to gain off that."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Power play lowlights and highlights

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 19, 2013 C4

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