The Winnipeg Jets aren’t a team that should take anyone lightly, but coach Claude Noel is concerned his players may experience a let down on Friday when they face the Carolina Hurricanes. That’s because the Jets are coming off a big win Tuesday against Boston and Noel is worried his players may be looking ahead to Saturday, when the Jets play in Detroit.
“We’re certainly going to be aware of Carolina,” Noel said this morning after the Jets’ morning skate. “The question for me is, and I’m well aware of it, is when you go after the emotional win against Boston and you face Carolina... I’m not taking them lightly especially after the deal they made today that will get the attention of players.”
Added forward Jim Slater: "Any time you have a success, you might get a little lackadaisical. Coach has done a great job of keeping us in line here.”
On some levels, Carolina is easy to take lightly. The team has underperformed this season -- its record is 9-17-4 -- and last month general manager Jim Rutherford fired coach Paul Maurice. On Friday, Rutherford shipped high-priced defenceman Tomas Kaberle to Montreal for defenceman Jaroslav Spacek.
Spacek is expected to be in Carolina’s lineup Friday in Winnipeg.
“He’ll be in here tonight and he’ll be dressed and we’ll throw him into the fire and get him ready to go,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said this morning.
The Jets have also already beaten Carolina twice -- 5-3 in October and 3-1 last month -- but that was under Maurice.
There are signs Carolina may be turning things around. The club lost five straight under Muller before winning Wednesday in Edmonton 5-3. For Muller the win was a sign the players are adapting to his new system.
“We’ve only had two practices,” Muller said Friday. “I’m kind of slowly introducing some new stuff that we want to play. In the game in Edmonton it really started to come together. I think we are starting to see the identity and the type of team I want.”
He added that, “I took this position because I thought it was a great opportunity. Anytime you can start with a team that has great goaltending and you’ve got a leader like [Eric]Staal, young players like [Jeff]Skinner and [Brandon]Sutter, I think you are off on the right track.”
Skinner agreed. “We knew that we weren’t getting results, we weren’t playing well,” he said Friday. “I think in the last couple of weeks, we picked it up and started competing better.”
He added that the Kaberle trade has also sent a message to the players. “It grabs your attention a little bit I think. Obviously this doesn’t happen when you are doing well and things are going well for you. I think we’ve known for a while that we’ve got to sort of right the ship here.”
One player the Jets will be counting on Friday is Slater. Noel credited the centre for making several key faceoff wins late in the third period Tuesday that helped the Jets hang on to their 2-1 win over the Bruins.
Slater said being at home is a big advantage when it comes to faceoffs. “I think the big thing is being at home you get to put your stick down second and you try and see what the other guy is doing. That’s a big thing,” he said. He added that he happened to be on his backhand during those crucial faceoffs Tuesday, which also gave him an edge.
“If you are on your backhand, it’s a lot easier because it’s your strong side. ... A lot of times you can out muscle a guy if you are on your backhand.”