Winnipeg Jets know what they must do to stop the slide, now comes the execution
WINNIPEG - The road was not kind to the Winnipeg Jets last week. They're back home now and ready to turn things around after losing three straight games away from the MTS Centre.
The Jets were brimming with confidence after recording seven points over their first five games. But Winnipeg paid for its sloppy play on the road and will take a 3-4-1 mark into Tuesday's game against the visiting Florida Panthers.
"If we win the Florida game we end up being back at .500 and we're going to move forward from there," Jets coach Claude Noel said after practice Monday. "We know what's the reality of things, we're in the game, we see what we're doing, now it's time to correct it and go forward from that."
Winnipeg has taken far too many penalties and given up several power-play goals of late. An ugly 8-3 loss in Tampa Bay on Friday provided the most striking example.
"It goes without saying against Tampa Bay you want to stay out of the penalty box and we didn't do that and you saw the result," said forward Blake Wheeler.
"The why may be kind of a mystery right now. We just have to go back to moving our feet and playing a certain brand of hockey and maybe have faith that's going to take us where we want to go."
The Jets handed the Lightning two five-on-three chances.
Injuries have also depleted Winnipeg's strength. They started the season without defenceman Zach Bogosian, still recovering from wrist surgery.
Then defenceman Dustin Byfuglien hurt himself before he even had a chance to suit up in Florida. He's still listed as day to day.
Not only is Byfuglien an imposing physical presence on the ice, he was the No. 2-scoring defenceman in the NHL last season.
"Buff's a huge part of our team," said fellow blue-liner Mark Stuart. "He plays a lot of minutes, he's a big part of our offence, our power play. Yeah, we miss him, but we need to pick up the slack.
"Our record doesn't look great without Buff but I thought (Zach) Redmond came in and played really well, so it's nice to have that depth."
Redmond, who played last season with the American Hockey League's St. John's IceCaps, now has two NHL games on his resume. But he's not quite a replacement for either Byfuglien or Bogosian.
One of those three recent road losses was to the Panthers, so Tuesday's game gives the Jets a chance for revenge.
The Jets led twice in Florida but couldn't put it away. Once again, penalties were a factor as they surrendered one power-play goal in the second period and two in the third en route to a 6-3 loss.
"It's up to us as a team to buy in and be more disciplined," said forward Chris Thorburn.