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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rockie end to pre-season

Jets head for the hills after being throttled 5-0 by Beantowners

Posted: 09/29/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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BANFF, Alta. -- Maybe the fresh, mountain air will clear their heads.

Maybe the recent appearance of fresh snow atop the peaks surrounding this resort town in the Rockies will bring their mood to hockey season.

Maybe just having what amounts to a mulligan will make the Winnipeg Jets realize their disappointing pre-season at 1-4-3 isn't who they really are.

Some or all of the above may have brightened the mood of the team's coach, Claude Noel, who met briefly to update reporters in the middle of an activity-packed Saturday.

The night before in Saskatoon, not long after the Jets were blanked 5-0 by the Boston Bruins, the coach was in a dark mood and barely holding back his disappointment.

"I've watched some of the video but it's been busy with the travel, getting in here late and doing some of the team-building stuff," Noel said Saturday, he and his team settled here until Monday, when it will move on to Edmonton ahead of Tuesday's NHL season-opener against the Oilers.

"I have been able to remove (Friday's) game especially... we're going to be taking some clips off there that we can learn from and gather ourselves around but we will be moving forward.

"The exhibition game and the whole schedule was kind of all over the place, very busy for us. So we have to look ahead to playing Edmonton. That's the biggest focus for us."

The Jets will practise here today and Monday and while priorities like better checking, a harder game and reducing goals against will be evident, Noel professes to have moved on from Friday, even though it appeared the team is already trying his patience.

"(I'm) frustrated for the fact you would have liked to have had a better record ending the pre-season," he said. "The pre-season works in different ways. You'd like to use it as a building block for both individuals and the team to get started.

"Were we able to do that? To some degree (but), with the amount of games we played we didn't have a lot of our lineup in those games.

"What I found myself doing a lot of the time was making sure we were healthy for the start of the season. But I was frustrated for the overall performance. I thought we had some good play from some good players but not enough good players. Some people that need to push the envelope did those things but some of our key guys, you wanted to see them perform better.

"But you play a last game, players are cautious about getting injured and a lot of different factors. Coaches feel one way, players feel another when you deal with pre-season.

"You try to bring those things together and you have to keep a balance. Today's a new day for me and I'm keeping that balance. We've got to move forward."

Balance would have been key for Saturday afternoon's test of the acclaimed Stanley Thompson-designed golf course at the Banff Springs Hotel.

But beyond there, too, of course.

"Towards the end (of the pre-season) I thought we did some things better," Noel said. "I could see the response to some of the video teaching we had done.

"What you don't like is some of the goals we gave up in the games. At this juncture, I don't think you can sit here and dwell on the negative. You have to try to take the positive and then try to build from there.

"We have a couple of practices to do that and our focus has to be Edmonton and the start of that game."

Veteran defenceman Mark Stuart was as disappointed as his coach late Friday after the Saskatoon beatdown, but held up the Bruins as a club that could teach the Jets something.

"They're a successful team for a reason," Stuart said. "They come at you hard. They have a lot of talent over there, good goaltending. But we're completely capable of bringing that hard game back at them and we didn't really match their work ethic. You kind of saw that.

"I just know one thing. From our record, it is pre-season but you want to win and it's very disappointing to come out with only one win in eight pre-season games. It's not where we wanted to be. But we're going to keep working here. We'll have some good practices here this weekend and get ready for Edmonton."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2013 B7

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