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Noel has confidence in Jets goaltending but agrees it must get better

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

WINNIPEG - Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets isn't on ESPN's list of top 25 NHL goaltenders and, given his numbers last season, his coach isn't surprised.

"Players get ranked a lot of times according to numbers and I think it's probably fair," Claude Noel said Monday at training camp.

Pavelec, a workhorse who played in a league-high 44 games last season, ranked 10th over all in wins with 21. But his save percentage of .905 ranked 51st in the NHL and his 20 losses were the second worst.

His goals-against average of 2.80 ranked him 52nd overall and he allowed a league high 119 goals.

Noel says the Jets have to improve in many areas this season, including goaltending.

But he still says he believes they have goaltenders who can get them to the playoffs.

"I'm confident in our goaltending and I think our goaltending can help us get in the playoffs," said Noel. "We're going to have to play a good team game and our goalies are going to have to do their part.

"That's part of the solution. Your players have to check better. You have to do some things, we have to do some things better from the previous two years to get in the playoffs and goaltending also going to have to pick up a little bit more."

The Jets showed their confidence in Pavelec last season, when they signed the Czech native to a new five-year, $19.5-million deal.

His numbers aren't just a reflection of Pavelec's efforts in goal.

In fact, he got a lot of credit from his coach and teammates last season for keeping the Jets in games when not much else was working.

There were also times when he could have used a little more help in front of the net. He was second only to Buffalo's Ryan Miller in the number of shots faced at 1,251.

Training camp is a time when a lot of players get ice time who likely won't see much, if any, action with the Jets this season. That has included goaltenders.

But that should start to change Tuesday night when the Edmonton Oilers visit, as the focus in goal at last turns to Pavelec and perhaps backup Al Montoya as well.

"The important thing for us is to get the two goalies that we have prepared to play and that's going to be the biggest thing moving forward here with these next exhibition games," said Noel, although he refused to go into more detail.

"I've been told I'm going to play, I don't know exactly what the plan is, but I'm excited to get to the game and get things going," said Pavelec.

The franchise has made the playoffs exactly once since it started in Atlanta. After a promising start last season that made them look like a safe bet, the Jets crumbled down the stretch.

This season, their third in Winnipeg, the pressure to qualify has increased and the players say they know what they must do.

Pavelec is no exception. He says it's time to start making good on expectations and he says the team has added players and gotten better in the off-season.

They will also have less travelling to do now that they're in a division composed largely of Central time-zone teams, although those teams look a lot tougher for the most part than their old Southeast rivals.

"You know first year, we just moved from Atlanta, last year was the lockout, this year . . . it's time to make it. I think we have the team to make it," said the goaltender. "We just have to stop talking about it and just make it."


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