Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel is confident his team will make the playoffs this year -- well sort of.
When asked today if he expects the Jets to be a playoff team, Noel answered flatly: “Yes... We think it’s in our grasp.”
But he then elaborated with a little more caution, saying he would have to assess things after 20 games. After that, “We’ll think ‘Okay do we think we can do this? Is it realistic’.”
Noel believes the Jets need to make up 17 points in the Eastern Conference standings. Last season the then Atlanta Thrashers finished with 80 points and the final playoff team was the New York Rangers with 93 points.
He still recalls the noise of the crowd during the Jets first pre season game last month. The national anthem in particular gave him chills. “It was almost like 15 years of vented, we’ll just say emotion, I don’t if it was angry or anger or whatever. But as soon as the anthem started everybody sang and it just gave you goose bumps. Everybody was singing ... It almost brought tears to your eyes. It was beautiful.” he said.
Noel added that he will enjoy the moment Sunday and take in the excitement. “I will smell the coffee. I will smell the roses. There’s no doubt. Life is too short. I learned that a long time ago.”
Winnipeg forward Mark Scheifele, 18, will play in his first NHL game Sunday and while he admits to being “very, very nervous”, he's been sleeping like a baby thanks to a handy computer software application.
“It's called the Sleep Pillow for the iPad,” he explained today after practice. “I use the rainy noises. It's just like a raining sound and it gets you to sleep.”
He added that thanks to the application he had “unbeliveable sleep [Friday] night” and he'll be using it again Saturday.
However, his nervousness has been showing a bit on the ice. During practices on Friday and Saturday, Scheifele made a few miscues including nearly skating into a pack of players during a drill.
“At the beginning of [today's practice]I had a few baubles,” he said. He quickly added that maybe screwing up in practice will be a good sign for when the game starts. “Maybe that is a good sign,” he said.
Other players are taking a more laid back approach to Sunday's game. Tanner Glass said he'll just get to the rink early, stretch, loosen up and “do some mental imaging kind of stuff.”
He has long given up on pre-game rituals or superstitions. “I used to have a couple and then I would forget to put my mouth guard in or something before the anthem and that would throw me off,” he said.
Glass said most of what he does now is more habit than ritual. “I know I tie my left skate first most of the time,” he said.