May 28, 2020

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D-first mentality limits toll of injuries

'You do your job and things will be fine'

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/12/2014 (1975 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE game is chaotic by its nature much of the time so you might expect the Winnipeg Jets to be all over the map since their injury list began to build in late November.

For most of the team's last 15 games, however, this has not been the case.

Even as the list of wounded grew to include the club's top two defensive pairings -- first Toby Enstrom followed by Zach Bogosian, Jacob Trouba and Mark Stuart -- and then moved forward this week to include Evander Kane, the Jets have been comparatively stable and consistent much of the time.

Their record of 9-2-4 in this 15-game stretch is marked by a goals-for/goals-against chart of 49-35. That's a raw per-game average of 3.27 to 2.33 and you'd be hard-pressed to argue that's the sign of the team headed off a cliff.

"Of course we've got a lot of injured players over the last month but the way we play, well, we're handling it pretty well," said Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who goes back in today to face the New York Islanders.

The annual New Year's Eve contest is a 4 p.m. start at the MTS Centre. "Everybody is on the same page, even the guys who have stepped in have played really well and have played an important role on the team. It's time for other players to show up and they've shown up the last number of games," added Pavelec. "I think the most important thing is that we have a good system and everybody knows what to do.

"You do your job and things will be fine. That's what's most important and it's working."

Both Jets goalies have shown consistency this season and in their eyes they, too, have benefitted from the system adjustments.

Winnipeg has been a top-10 team in shots per game against, today seventh in that category at an average of 28.1 against per game.

"I think everyone's stuck with our systems," said goalie Michael Hutchinson after Tuesday's practice. "It's a defence-first mentality and that you know that we can win games on defence. We've won games 1-0 this year.

"You don't have to try to overcompensate for the guys you've lost. Some of those guys are big parts of our power play on the back end there, but nobody's who's come in has tried to do too much.

"Everybody's just tried to play within their game and has been able to just focus on the system and focus on defence first and know that our offence will come."

The recent results might suggest the Jets' system is easy to pick up, if understudies can step right in.

"There are certain points but a lot of it just comes down to your compete level and your will," Hutchinson said. "You can make up for a lot of that, even if you get caught out of position.

"If you work hard and battle to make sure they can't get a clean shot or you can block a shot, that makes up for a lot. That's been good when we've had breakdowns -- our effort level has been amazing. We've been able to recover and not get caught on our heels."

Pavelec said in his opinion, the system shouldn't be classified as easy.

"No, I wouldn't say it's easy but that's a better question for players, not for me," he said with a smile. "I see that everybody's working so hard and we play as a team, and that's a huge thing as well.

"We're on the same page, doesn't matter if it's power play or penalty kill, everybody knows what to do and we're doing the jobs and that's making it easier for the goalies."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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