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Jets scoring fewer goals this year, allowing more

Not statistics that indicate improvement

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The NHL style may be modified in this lockout-shortened season -- more battened down defensively -- but the tale of the Winnipeg Jets so far is in the goals department.

Both ways, it's going the wrong way.

Winnipeg's per-game averages in 2011-12 were 2.74 goals for and 3.00 against.

Through 13 games of this mad 48-game dash, the gap is wider -- 2.53 and 3.30.

The team's stated mission for the season was to be better defensively. OK, so the results aren't there yet but they're working on it.

Last season, goals weren't the big issue. The Jets scored pretty much the same way the conference-winning New York Rangers did.

But now, even the offence is dwindling.

In their last five outings, the Jets have just nine goals (miraculously, two wins from that). Two of those goals have come in desperation final minutes in losses, another as a winner in overtime.

"I don't know if we're squeezing our sticks but we do feel we're having trouble finding the back of the net," left-winger Evander Kane acknowledged on Saturday after the team's skate at the MTS Iceplex, a day of preparation for today's home encounter with the Boston Bruins (5 p.m. TSN Jets, TSN 1290).

Kane has three goals through 13 games.

"Two of the goals we've scored are in the last minute of the game. Take those away, we don't have (much) for 59 minutes of a game.

"We have to find a way to create more offence."

Jets right-winger Blake Wheeler, who has scored four times, said the talk in the locker-room is not solely devoted to offence.

"No. It doesn't matter what the score is, we want to win," he said. "To win, you've got to score goals, that goes without saying. But 1-0 is just as good as 5-4 for us. The bigger concern is that we're on the wrong end of all these games right now.

"If you saw Pittsburgh, they were willing to play a 1-0 game. They have some pretty good players over there and they weren't scoring goals either.

"We do need to score more to win games, but at the same time, we've got to do some other things as well."

Added Kane: "I don't think it's the elephant in the room. Guys are pretty aware what's going on. We try to figure out as best we can and like I said before, we've got to find different ways to spring some guys loose."

Veteran centre Olli Jokinen Saturday insisted simplicity was going to help the Jets, if they will stay committed.

"You've got to keep the game simple and play the right way," Jokinen said. "The impact from (Friday) night is that we worked hard, we had some chances to score and you have to believe that if you play that way, you'll have a better chance to win than lose most nights."

He said wins and losses are not the right thoughts within a game.

"Things change fast during the game," he said. "You want to play for the win, that's got to be the mindset but I think as a player, sometimes we lose our focus and think "outcome" too much. I think if you stay in the process for 60 minutes, the results are going to be there."

A few obvious things might help the Jets, like a better power play. It's scoreless in four games and just one for 14 in the last five.

Other details could help, too.

"We miss a lot of our shots, over the net or it's being blocked," Jokinen said. "That's the one thing we have to get better at, to hit the net more."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

STEP ONE: HIT THE NET

FUNDAMENTALS: A rather big word for the basic, easy stuff.

Such as, in the case of the Winnipeg Jets, hitting the net with shots, or putting the puck near the net.

Hence these words from coach Claude Noel, Saturday, keeping in mind that the Jets are No. 2 in the NHL in missed shots at 182. Ottawa was higher at 187.

"When you watch the goals being scored around the league, there are not a lot of pretty goals getting scored," Noel said. "One of the things we don't do enough of is get pucks to the net. And we don't hit the net enough. When you miss the net... sometimes you have to realize the angle you're shooting the puck from.

"When you've got a bad-angle shot, is that the time to pick a corner or is that a time to reward the players that are going to the net or are at the net?"

-- Campbell

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 17, 2013 B2

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