WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets aren’t looking to rinse and repeat after opening the NHL season with a 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers that revealed plenty of rough spots.
The Los Angeles Kings are in town Friday for the Jets’ home opener, and coach Claude Noel is looking for a far more disciplined and patient performance from his players.
“I think we can play hard, we can be a hard team to play against, so that could make for a good game,” he said Thursday.
“We’re just going to have to play a good solid game. That’s a solid team. They’re patient, they wait for you to make mistakes and you’ve got to be just as patient and you’ve got to be solid everywhere.”
The Jets walked out of Edmonton with a win but they came from behind to do it, and their power-play and penalty killing were problems most of the night.
“I don’t think you can go into too many nights playing the way you played in Edmonton anticipating a win,” said Noel.
“So we know we dodged a bullet, we know we have a lot of work to do to get better.”
The Jets, who moved from the Eastern to Western Conference this season, have played the Kings only once since arriving in Winnipeg—they beat them 1-0 in overtime in December 2011.
The Kings went on that season to squeak into the playoffs then sliced through the pack to claim their first Stanley Cup.
The Jets are still trying to at least make the playoffs, something the franchise has managed only once in its history in Atlanta or Winnipeg.
The Kings, who have kept that Stanley Cup-winning lineup pretty well intact, are perhaps a better test of Winnipeg’s chances in the West than Edmonton.
“They play a really patient and structured game,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd.
“They don’t veer off that very much at all so we’ll have to play the right way, keep the pucks going north and south, and not give them anything from a turnover standpoint.”
The Jets do have size and they have speed and say they hope to use both.
“L.A. doesn’t give you much,” said Evander Kane, part of a revamped second line that showed a lot of promise in the season opener.
“They’re a heavy team and we’re going to have to be prepared to play a heavy game and be physical and match their physicality and try to use our speed to our advantage.”
The Kings will be coming to Winnipeg off their season opener against the Minnesota Wild, another Western Conference team the Jets will get to know well, since both are in the Central Division.
Noel is also preaching patience but suggests he isn’t trying to slow down his offence.
“We want to play with energy and passion,” he said.
“(But) I’d like us to be more patient more in our own zone. That’s where we’re impatient for me right now, that’s where we’re getting into some trouble.”
Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, who picked up a team-leading three points on assists against Edmonton, suggested that likely isn’t going to happen against a team like Los Angeles.
“We’ve got to stick to our game plan, they’re going to stick to theirs,” he said.
“They’re not going to give you many chances. We’re going to have to be happy winning 1-0 or 2-1 . . . We’ve got to have that mindset that we can’t be going out there and have a shootout every night.”