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Vincent taking over power play from Pearn

Jets dead last in NHL with man advantage last season

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PENTICTON, B.C. -- The line combinations? You'll have to wait and see. But Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel has some other moves in mind for the 2013-14 season.

Noel said on the weekend he's decided to alter some of the coaching staff's responsibilities.

Perry Pearn, hired last season to help with special teams in particular, will now just have responsibilities in that area for penalty-killing, along with fellow assistant Charlie Huddy.

Noel said the power play will now belong to assistant Pascal Vincent.

The Jets were 30th out of 30 teams in power play last season, and 24th in penalty-killing.

"This year we're going to put Pascal running the power play so he can focus on that," Noel said during a break from watching action at the prospects tournament. "And I will work with it. And Perry and Charlie will work the penalty kill. It's a bit of a switch. Pascal has done a lot of work studying what we did and didn't do and has done a lot of homework in assessing teams that have had success, knowing as well that we maybe don't have the same personnel as others.

"You've got to work with your own personnel and one of the things that's clear is we have to do a better job with net presence."

To be fair to the penalty-killing side, Pearn brought some major changes in philosophy to the unit last season and without a real training camp or exhibition games, the Jets were brutal early. Over the final two-thirds of the season, though, their percentage was 87.8, a top-three number had it been for the whole season.

"With almost no practice time or exhibition games, it was an adjustment and we paid for it," Noel said.

Special teams are just one of the areas the coach seeks to improve.

"Our expectation has to rise," he said. "We need better play from some of our guys. We've made long-term commitments with players, been able to look at who we had and decide who we wanted to keep and not so we have to put more pressure on each other to play better.

"Our special teams need to be better and our goal differential has to be better. Until we get on the right side of that ledger, we're going to be only close and close is not going to be good enough."

It may still be the off-season until training camp starts Wednesday but there's been plenty of summer Jets news, including last week's revelations of another Evander Kane indiscretion, this time over unpaid traffic fines.

Noel said he has only enthusiasm with Kane.

"I think Evander Kane has come leaps and bounds for me in a lot of ways," the coach said. "The focus is always on a lot of things in the off-season, anything to write about. I don't have any concerns with him. I see a huge change in him.

"I saw it last year. I've seen it through the summer. I've seen it both on and off the ice and I've really liked what I've seen. He's very focused. I think he's matured. This is part of the process. The problem is we're under a microscope and that's a little bit of an adjustment for a young player, a young man. I like a lot of what I've seen and I'm very excited to have him play this year. I think he's got a lot to play for and I certainly know one thing, he wants to have success."

And on the seemingly never-ending chatter about defenceman Dustin Byfuglien and his fitness coming into camp, the coach all but batted that one away, too.

"All I know is that I've spoken to Buff, I've spoken to his teammates," he said. "There's no way of really knowing but all the things I hear are positive. For me, I think he's looking forward to the season. I think he's looking forward to being a contributor to our team and he's certainly going to have a big impact on our team.

"We'll need him to be a big contributor along with a number of guys. We want to lean on him and I think he's looking forward to that."

That Byfuglien is a serious candidate for the U.S. Olympic team could help matters, Noel agreed.

"The Olympic (issue)? I can't answer for Buff but I think for Dustin it's a good thing for him," he said. "I think he enjoyed it there (at the orientation camp). There were a lot of elite players and he's one of them."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 9, 2013 C4

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