What a difference just one win makes, at least for the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets won their first game of the 2010-11 NHL season Monday, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1, and on Tuesday, the players were still revelling in it. Someone had even written “Joy!” on a notice board in the players’ dressing room, along with a poem about hard work.
“You’ve just got to get people to care, that’s all,” head coach Claude Noel said when asked about the poem. “And if they don’t, that’s not a good thing.”
Poetry aside, Noel was quick to try and bring his players down to earth. The Jets are still at the bottom of the standings with a 1-3 record and they and face an uphill climb to meet Noel’s objective of producing 96 points this season. That’s 16 more points than the club earned last year as the Atlanta Thrashers, and it’s what Noel figures it will take to make the playoffs.
“We dug ourselves our hole, so they are all big games,” he said. “We’ve got to get ourselves back on the positive side of the ledger.”
The Jets face an early test of whether they are up to that task this week, with games in Toronto on Wednesday, in Ottawa on Thursday, and then back home on Saturday against Carolina.
The games are all against Eastern Conference opponents, meaning a win is not only two points for the Jets, but two fewer points for their conference rivals. That zero-sum game makes this week even more important, Noel pointed out.
“You have got to take them clean. It’s going to be important,” he said. “If you take the game, then you don’t give them two and you get two.”
Forward Kyle Wellwood said Monday’s win came as a relief to everyone on the team. The players “were feeling the pressure,” he said. And, “any time the team wins, regardless of the time of the season, [the coaches]come in and they are happy.”
Wellwood said that while back-to-back games are difficult, this week’s won’t be so bad. “Playing back to back in Ontario is a kind of a good thing as far as having a back-to-back and quick two games in a row. It’s a really short haul,” he said.
The Jets could be short-handed for part of the trip. Defencemen Ron Hainsey and Mark Stuart are hurting and it is not clear if they will play. But forward Evander Kane, who missed Monday’s game, was back practicing Tuesday, and should play this week.
The Jets have yet to score on the power play, making the team 0-for-17.
Noel said he isn’t worried about the power play. “I don’t have any concerns about the power play. It will come around it’s a matter of time,” he said.
He added that assistant coach Pascal Vincent, who works with special teams, isn’t taking it so calmly. “Pascal is near death now. He’s near suicidal. If you guys could help, he’d appreciate it.”