Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sin-bin visits down, but Jets still struggling with kill rate

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PLANTATION, Fla. -- Here's a pick-your-poison proposition for the Winnipeg Jets so far in their NHL season.

In the matter of staying out of the penalty box, the Jets are the positive pace-setters in the 30-team league. They've been shorthanded just 16 times in six games. Calgary also has just had 16 opposition power plays but has played just four games.

This is a significant improvement for the Jets in an area that plagued them throughout last season's first half.

For instance, in the first half of their return to Winnipeg, the Jets led the league in being shorthanded, 77 times in 16 games, an average of 4.8 per game.

They've knocked that two by more than two per game so far in 2013.

But while in the box, the Jets continue to struggle like it's 2011-12.

Their penalty-killing heading for tonight's game in Sunrise, Fla., against the Florida Panthers is ranked No. 28 in the NHL, at just 68.8 per cent.

The entire equation became more acute with Tuesday night's 4-3 loss in Montreal, a game in which the Jets went shorthanded a season-high five times and gave up two more power-play goals, including the third-period winner.

"I don't know, it's what we don't know," said Jets coach Claude Noel, "If we had been taking penalties, you guys would have just said, 'It's just like last year.' You guys are always trying to get an angle on things.

"I don't think you can make too much out of a game. I'm looking for patterns. It's early."

There's certainly the case to be made that Tuesday's items were not such a departure from the first five games when the Jets were good at staying out of penalty trouble.

Both they and the Canadiens were the victims of some awfully marginal calls, in particular to Paul Postma and Alex Burmistrov, who both delivered what appeared to be legal bodychecks.

"I'm looking for patterns of play, patterns of penalties, well, maybe not so much last night," Noel said. "I didn't like the first one they called on us (to Postma) and they ended up scoring on us.

"I'm not sure what it's going to lead to. It's something I'm going to have to determine. It's too early to tell."

Whatever the analysis, the defeat stopped the Jets' winning streak at three games and leads to speculation as to what Noel may or may not do to shake his team back to the winning track.

Could it be a lineup tweak or two, possibly inserting Mark Scheifele or maybe Zach Redmond for the first time?

"There are a lot of things we need to look at," the coach said. "One of them is the lineup. Other things are: Where are we... in this process of the number of games we've played?

"There are a lot of things I didn't like that we established... we had no early pressure in the first period. There was no game to our game.

"Have we been good in the last two games? Not in my view.

"Why? What? Is it fatigue in some players? What is it? Everyone's making the same assessments on very little information."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2013 $sourceSection0

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