Penalty-kill im­proves

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - JETS REPORT -

THE Jets’ penalty killing, still in the NHL’s bot­tom six, looks to be making some progress, very ef­fec­tive again Tues­day in the win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Win­nipeg killed the first five short-handed sit­u­a­tions, and has looked bet­ter in killing 13 of the last 15 sit­u­a­tions over four games.

“I thnk we’re just more ag­gres­sive when we can be,” cen­tre Bryan Lit­tle said. “Against a team like Detroit, where they have a lot of skilled play­ers, we did a good job of tak­ing away a lot of their time and space, and pres­sured up ice. We had a few chances even on the penalty kill last night. I think that style works for us. We’re bet­ter when we’re on the puck and more ag­gres­sive.”

AF­TER­BURN­ERS: The Jets are 6-13-0 against the Western Con­fer­ence this sea­son and 3-100 against the Cen­tral Di­vi­sion, tests they will face over the next five games... An­drew Ladd’s goal Tues­day was Win­nipeg’s first with a five-on-three ad­van­tage this sea­son.

Those num­bers, if they are sub­stan­ti­ated over the longer term and are not just an open­ing salvo fu­elled by adren­a­line — know­ing the dif­fer­ence is where so many self-pro­fessed ex­perts go off track — could mean a lot of things to the Jets, who be­gin a five-game road trip tonight in Glen­dale, Ariz.

They could mean a more con­sis­tent run of re­sults based on the bet­ter de­fence and goals-against num­bers the Jets rode to the post-sea­son a year ago.

And that could and prob­a­bly would mean making up ground on the pack that holds down Western Con­fer­ence play­off spots. The Jets are seven points away en­ter­ing to­day’s play.

It could even mean a shift in the depth chart when Pav­elec re­turns in the com­ing weeks, though a lot of wa­ter is bound to go un­der the bridge be­fore we ar­rive at that po­ten­tially fas­ci­nat­ing junc­ture.

And with all of that, keep in mind the other mem­ber of the cur­rent Jets goal­tend­ing trio, Michael Hutchin­son, was also out of the gate sim­i­larly last

GP

10 15 16

W

7 5 5 sea­son.

Then the NHL new­comer, he was sum­mar­ily bril­liant un­til the all-star break and since then, he’s been a vic­tim of some hard luck, some iffy goals, and can’t seem to buy a break or a con­so­nant be­tween V and X.

But that’s in the past and the fu­ture is not yet known, leav­ing only what we know to­day.

And that’s this about Helle­buyck, ac­cord­ing to Mau­rice: “Con­sis­tent. Very, very few days, if any, where he didn’t look the same as the day be­fore. And that would be true of the games.”

Helle­buyck will al­most surely be in goal again tonight. That it will be eight of the last nine nods from his coach really didn’t seem to reg­is­ter with him Wed­nes­day.

“I don’t know how to an­swer that,” said Helle­buyck, com­ing off a two-game stint at home in which he al­lowed just one goal, win­ning both starts. “I just go and give my best when the coach calls my name.”

That best has given the Jets a lot of chances to win.

And even on the one night where things went wrong and he was pulled in a 3-1 loss in Ed­mon­ton, Mau­rice sounded aw­fully for­giv­ing in hind­sight.

“The goals weren’t his,” Mau­rice said, maybe over­look­ing one. “It wasn’t one that got by him that made me feel he was off his game. He’s just looked the same way ev­ery day.

“He’s ef­fi­cient in the net. He doesn’t look like he’s burn­ing a lot of en­ergy. Size, on the break­away chance with (Dar­ren) Helm (on Tues­day) he had the

‘Con­sis­tent. Very, very few days, if any, where he didn’t look the same as the day be­fore. And that would be true of the games’

L

3 6 8

OTL

0 1 1

GA A

2.01 2.82 2.89

Sv.Pct.

.932 .906 .906 abil­ity to stretch out, get wide, get low, but very con­sis­tent in how he looks.”

Helle­buyck was asked if he con­sid­ers one of his strengths to be his abil­ity to stare down shoot­ers, whether it be in a break­away or shootout sit­u­a­tion.

“I’ve never thought there was a dif­fer­ence be­tween any­thing else and break­aways,” Helle­buyck said. “It’s just goal­tend­ing in gen­eral — you get a read on what’s hap­pen­ing in front of you and you make a de­ci­sion.”

From there, he launched a wave of credit at his team­mates for the promis­ing num­bers of late.

“They’re pay­ing the price, block­ing a lot of shots,” Helle­buyck said. “They’re do­ing the lit­tle things like the quick lit­tle passes that help you get out of the zone. And the sup­port up the ice. When you see those things, that a lot of peo­ple don’t look at, you see a team that’s do­ing well.”

Those team­mates, in re­turn, have be­gun to feel some trust and con­fi­dence right back at him.

“He looks con­fi­dent in there,” Jets cen­tre Bryan Lit­tle said. “He makes a lot of tough saves, es­pe­cially in traf­fic, and makes them look easy. He sees the puck well

“It doesn’t seem like it’s his first couple of months in the league. He’s really com­fort­able out there and he works hard in prac­tice. And the team’s con­fi­dent in front of him. Those are good com­bi­na­tions.” How much does that mat­ter? “I think it mat­ters a lot,” Lit­tle said. “You have the con­fi­dence that if there is a break­down or a mis­take, he’s got your back and will make a big save for the team. It’s nice hav­ing that con­fi­dence in your goalie to make a big save like that.”

And if none of that rings as true at the end of the five-game road trip, well, at least we’ll have fish wrap and a goalie con­tro­versy as Plan B.

Shane Doan fin­ished the night with the sec­ond hat trick of his ca­reer and tied Dale Haw­er­chuk for the fran­chise lead with his 379th goal with less than 30 sec­onds re­main­ing.

Ari­zona’s star de­fence­man Oliver Ek­manLars­son lef t the game late in the third with a ‘lower-body in­jur y’ as did D-man Zbynek Michalek, but coach Dave Tip­pet t told re­por ters Wed­nes­day both would be in the lineup against the Jets.

Mikkel Boed­ker leads Ari­zona in scor­ing with 29 points, in­clud­ing 12 goals, while rookie Max Domi is sec­ond with 10 goals and 26 points.

Some no­table Coy­otes num­bers: Ari­zona ranks first in the league with a 53.3 faceof f-win per­cent­age... The Coy­otes are 9-1-1-1 all-time at home vs. Win­nipeg/At­lanta... Win­nipeg prod­uct Michael Stone is on a three-game point streak (1-3-4) and with 66 ca­reer points, just passed Deron Quint for 11th place on the fran­chise all-time points list among de­fence­men.

(Line­ups sub­ject to change)

JOE BRYKSA / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Win­nipeg Jets goal­tender Con­nor Helle­buyck takes par t in prac­tice Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon at the MTS Cen­tre.

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