By Scott Billeck
The Winnipeg Jets have 58 players in training camp right now and started a third of them Sunday night against the Ottawa Senators. The 3-1 scoreline in favour of the club from Canada’s capital was meaningless in the grand scheme of things, as was their 4-3 shoot-out loss the night before. The meaningful part? Evaluating an array of players all trying to make an NHL roster and cutting the roster down to the best 23.
“I thought the game was a game that looked like it was early pre-season,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “They were a lot of things we could have certianly improved on, puck support for one. There wasn’t a lot of chemistry out there.”
Noel said that changes are coming but he is trying to respect the process for both his young stars and his veterans.
“I think it (changes) are going to happen sometime this week,” Noel said. “Right now our numbers are big, probably a little bit too big right now but we still got six games and we want to make sure you are doing things right.”
Evaluation was in full force on Sunday night as the Winnipeg Jets played their 20 dressed skaters here, there and everywhere. The big three of Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little did see most of their ice-time spent together. Michael Frolik played on both wings, Ian White played on both the left and right sides on defence, and players were scattered up and down the line-up.
“With Frolik, I started him on the left and I thought he was better on the right – he looked like a guy who has played in the league,” said Noel. “I didn’t mind him, I thought he was okay.
“Halischuck is a guy who is a hard-working type of player and I thought the goal that he scored was the typical goal he scores. I thought he played pretty hard, thought he played pretty well. He made two good blocks on the penalty kill and earned the breakaway.
Halischuk scored on the breakaway, the lone goal for the Winnipeg Jets on the night.
Noel talked about the need to get his core group going, to prepare them and make sure they are ready for October 1st.
“We got to get some activity happening very quickly,” said Noel. “You want to see some kids, you want to see some players play, you want to see some things, you want to be fair. But at the end of the day you want to be loyal to your own players and get them in a rhythm because it is about starting hitting the ground running.”
The Winnipeg Jets will be back practising tomorrow at the MTS Iceplex. Look for Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya to see time in the next couple of games as well as a more focused approach to line combinations.