Maurice reflects on getting Jets out of November slide

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Pleasure took a back seat to business Thursday for the Winnipeg Jets, mired in a November slide that has seen them lose eight of their last 10.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/11/2015 (2561 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Pleasure took a back seat to business Thursday for the Winnipeg Jets, mired in a November slide that has seen them lose eight of their last 10.

Jets coach Paul Maurice ran a 29-minute practice with a strictly serious face Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. The Jets meet the Minnesota Wild this afternoon at 3 p.m.

Beyond the usual amount of barking and curse words, Maurice had several conversations on the ice Thursday that were clearly not casual and revealed later there was more to the day than on the ice for the 10-11-2 team that lost 5-3 Wednesday in Washington.

Alex Brandon / The Associated Press Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (33), center Mathieu Perreault (85) and right wing Blake Wheeler (26) celebrate a goal by Perreault.

“You have to (find positives) when you’re struggling to string those wins together,” Maurice said. “But you also have to identify the reasons that you feel cost you some games. It’s what we dealt this morning and what we dealt with on the ice and tomorrow we’ll go back and start talking about the things we want to start seeing in our game that are good from last night and from our last five.

“We’re dealing with the things that need to be dealt with. When we can get the volume of our negative play and the volume of our positive play at the right levels, we’ll start winning more games.”

It’s a good bet there was a meeting between the coach or coaches and several of the team’s key veterans after today’s practice. Several veteran players appeared in the locker-room for interviews long after they normally do and reporters waited nearly an hour after Thursday’s practice to talk to Maurice.

Nothing was revealed as to whether any of those conversations were one-way or two-way.

Before Thursday’s practice began, Maurice had a brief one-on-one talk with rookie Nikolaj Ehlers on the ice. When the drills were done, he called Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien and Mark Stuart off to the side and spoke to them for a short time.

After cracking the NHL’s top 10 last year in team defence, the Jets have fallen all the way to No. 29 in the NHL in goals against today. They have a 61-73 for-against chart and have surrendered 46 goals in their last 12 games.

“I’m not surprised because the stats are the stats,” said right-winger Chris Thorburn. “But yeah, it’s a letdown because we made such a great gain last year. We know there’s a lot of improvement to do and it’s up to us in here to do it. Once we do clean a couple of areas up we’ll find the success we want.

“Just worry about your own job and get that done first and trust the other guy behind you is going to do the same.”

None of this had landed on Maurice’s desk unexpectedly, he said.

“I had a pretty good understanding of what our challenges would be,” the coach said. “At 8-4-2, we’re scoring enough but I’m aware of the fact that with the group we have, we do have to have some room to make some plays.

“That five-game stretch where we didn’t (all losses) was indicative of what we would look like and we have to find that balance. We can be a good defensive team. There’s no doubt in my mind. How quickly we can get there I’m not sure but we’ll work on that every day.

“We just need to be more comfortable in the tighter games.”

The Jets’ month of November is 3-8-1 so far. It has them playing 10 of 14 games on the road.

“It’s exactly what teams do in this situation so it’s not who we are,” Maurice said. “It’s where we’re at now.”

The work is ongoing, right-winger Drew Stafford said after practice.

“We’ve got to find a way to do it (defence) and that’s being quicker and (having) more attention to detail and being on the right side of the puck and more communication,” Stafford said. “Those are the kinds of things we’re trying to work on out there in practice today.

“We’re not going to improve as a hockey club until we lock down our defensive game.”

Changes? Paul Maurice was asked whether he’d be considering Joel Armia’s insertion into the lineup.

His cryptic response was this: “I want to make sure if I’ve challenged a player to be better that he has that opportunity to be better.”

The coach also had brief words with both goalies, Michael Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck, after today’s practice.

Hellebuyck was recalled from the AHL’s Moose earlier this week to replace injured Ondrej Pavelec and will almost surely see his first NHL action soon.

But neither Hellebuyck nor Maurice were revealing the plan ahead.

Hellebuyck said today he simply didn’t know when he’d be playing and Maurice said: “I didn’t give them a plan. So that’s the plan I’m giving you.”

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, November 26, 2015 8:41 PM CST: writethrough

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