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Beating Flames in '85 so sweet MacLean recalls good times

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He has already met the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 and come away with a victory, but Ottawa Senators head coach Paul MacLean revisited a comfort zone when he returned to Winnipeg late Sunday night ahead of tonight's NHL game at the MTS Centre.

And one thing that should strike a chord with Jets fans, beyond how much they loved all 248 goals he scored for their team between 1981 and 1988, is MacLean's attitude about the game.

It sings through loud and clear from his answer about his best memories of playing in Winnipeg.

"Of beating Calgary in the first round of the playoffs in 1985," McLean said Monday, without a pause. "To win the first playoff series and the only one that I ever won in the NHL. That was real good. I scored some goals and I had 100 points or played in an all-star game, but to actually have success in the playoffs was the biggest thing for me."

Jets fans don't need to be reminded that is the last time a Winnipeg (or Phoenix) NHL team won a playoff series.

So MacLean's visit is a beautiful perspective on important things.

Well, most of them.

"I'm really excited that Winnipeg's in the league and have their team," he said. "The fans here treated me real good.

"The only thing for me is that I miss the Queen."

The portrait of the Queen certainly looked down on many of his great career games.

And some of the bad ones, too.

"Yeah, (booed) all the time," MacLean said. "I got cheered lots, too. I had no complaints at all. I figured I got what I deserved. The seven years I played here, I thought it was real fair.

"It was great. I thought the fans were always honest with me, told me the way it was. I had a good time here."

The reporters that follow his team also had the inevitable questions about Winnipeg winters, with the unspoken subtext that somehow, Ottawa is in the banana belt.

"I didn't mind winter here," MacLean grinned. "It's cold. You've got to get used to cold. Winnipeg was a good stop."

Cold would have been a good way to describe the Sens in MacLean's first six games as an NHL head coach this fall. They lost five of the first six, and some in very bad ways.

But MacLean didn't go all cold on his team, nor did he lose his mind.

"I like that it's a real even keel," said Ottawa goalie Alex Auld, who will back up Craig Anderson tonight at the MTS Centre. "His mindset doesn't change a whole lot from day to day, whether we're winning or losing. It's all big picture.

"That's important. It's such a long year that it's exhausting to be riding the highs and lows and going up and down all the time."

Auld said that Ottawa's six game-winning streak that followed a bad start, was a product of consistency of message.

That should be no surprise -- MacLean's playing days were all about impact. In the case of the old franchise, a lot of time has passed but he still remains No. 2 on the Jets/Coyotes franchise list of goals by right-wingers. The opinionated Shane Doan, who will be here later this week, leads him by 302-248 but Doan has played more than twice as many games.

"(MacLean) has been such a constant for us," Auld said. "He keeps that same focus and every day we do a lot of the same things in practice. We focus on the same details every day and I think he's simplified things a lot, yet hasn't taken away anybody's creativity. He's really got guys to buy in from Day 1. That combined with the fact we have a great group of guys has made it a lot of fun.

"You hate to say it was fun when we were losing -- that's not fun -- but coming to the rink was still enjoyable."


Ranks right up there

PAUL MacLean hasn't been on the roster of the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes franchise for 23 years, yet remains prominent in almost all of the franchise's career rankings.

2nd - goals by a right-winger, 248

3rd - power-play goals, 97

4th - hat tricks, 7

5th - goals, 248

6th - points, 518

7th - game-winners, 24

9th - penalty minutes, 726

9th - games, 528

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2011 C2

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