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Pavelec looking for new start after disappointing season

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Ondrej Pavelec has seen the Winnipeg Jets circle the wagons around him.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/09/2014 (3001 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ondrej Pavelec has seen the Winnipeg Jets circle the wagons around him.

Last season’s weak numbers have caused a firestorm of criticism inside and outside of Winnipeg but the 27-year-old goalie from Kladno, Czech Republic remains front and centre on the depth chart heading for the 2014-15 season.

This will be Pavelec’s sixth full-time season as an NHL starter but he said Friday, the first day of this season’s training camp, he’s taking nothing for granted.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec put up mediocre numbers last season — a 3.01 GAA and a .901 save percentage.

“It’s a break year for us,” he said, asked if it was a make-or-break year for the team. “First of all as the Jets, huge year. For me, I heard that every single year, important season.

“Sure, very important year for me. I’m looking forward to it.”

Pavelec was comfortable in conversation on Friday, even about his low-ranked numbers (3.01 GAA, .901 SvPct) from last season.

“Of course it wasn’t fun at all,” he said. “We didn’t make the playoffs again. So many years in a row. It was really disappointing.

“Of course when you can’t win the game your confidence is going down. But this is a new season. (There’s) nothing you can do about (last year). I tried to have a good summer, come here in good shape.

“I’ve put everything behind me and now is a new start.”

He’s obviously pleased to hear the faith from within — head coach Paul Maurice and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff have both voiced their support — and said he’ll try to do his part on the two-way street Maurice wants to create — the Jets must play with better structure in front of Pavelec to be better defensively, and that the goalie must then do his part.

“That’s the first thing we’re going to do, improve defensively,” he said. “It’s good. But we’re going to get better defensively and I’ve got to get better. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. I’ll still have to work hard and make myself better and help the team.

“They’re going to help me so I have to help them. Simple.”

Pavelec said he welcomed questions about how much of a factor confidence can be and how he’s working to restore his own.

“Huge,” he started. “It’s in our head. When you have confidence, you feel like the game’s slow and the puck is bigger and again when you don’t feel well and don’t feel confident, the puck is so small and you don’t feel good.

“Head is really important in the game, for sure.”

‘It’s nothing you can do about (last year) now. I tried to have a good summer, come here in good shape and start again. I’ve put everything behind me and now is a new start’

— Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec

The summer seems to have refreshed Pavelec, as well as many Jets, but it’s more noticeable with the goaltender given he had declined just about every interview late last season, completely against the grain of all his previous time in Winnipeg.

“I had an injury,” he said. “Low body. That happens. It happened in the game against the Rangers and then I didn’t play for two or three weeks. That’s not fun at all.”

That wasn’t quite the whole story. He was hurt on March 14 and missed two weeks, and injured players aren’t generally available for interviews, but he played five more times before yielding the net for the final three games to Michael Hutchinson.

During that later period, with his confidence waning, he went dark.

The new season, though, marks a restart and Pavelec said Friday he was even warming up to the tough practice on Day 1 of camp.

“Good. Really good,” he said. “We were three goalies so we rotated. The skate was pretty hard but that’s the way it should be, I guess, if you’re going to play hard.

“Paul tells us if we want to win, make the playoffs and be a better team, we have to come in better shape. Everybody, not just me. So I tried to change a few things and I came to Canada a little earlier and I feel good.”

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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