WINNIPEG - It was a day of firsts on Sunday. There was the first shot, the first goal and the first penalty in the new Winnipeg Jets history.
Evander Kane got to be Claude Noel’s first example.
The Jets head coach wasn’t entirely impressed with Kane’s game during Sunday’s season-opening 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, so a couple of his shifts were taken away and he ended up with just more than 10 minutes of ice time.
Noel admitted Tuesday the 20-year-old Kane was the target because they want him to be a big producer this year.
“Exactly,” Noel said. “We want to see the reaction. So we’re hoping it stirs it up and brings a little level of anger or whatever it gets. Do you provoke? Is it motivation?”
Kane wasn’t exactly chatty on Tuesday morning after practice, offering up a simple “nope” when asked if Noel had explained to him why he played just 10 minutes on Sunday.
“Obviously you want to play as much as possible and help contribute to the team,” Kane said. “I’m just going to continue to work hard and play my game.”
Noel was somewhat contradictory in his comments about Kane, perhaps not wanting to jump all over the young man just one game into the campaign.
Despite earning just 10 minutes and 34 seconds of action, Kane tied for the team lead with four shots and was second to Mark Stuart with four hits. He was the only player, however, who didn’t get any penalty-killing time.
“For the 10 minutes he played he was pretty good,” Noel said. “He had a lot of hits, led our team in hits and shots, I believe, and only played 10 minutes. I thought he was pretty good.”
“For us to have success Evander’s gotta bring his A game, but he wasn’t alone,” Noel continued. “So if you’re writing a story he didn’t get his A game, you better make sure that you write that others were along with him, because there were quite a few others.
“We’re just finding out what their A games are. That’s the one thing (about) this new birth we’re at here … what is somebody’s A game?”
Noel switched up his line combinations at Tuesday’s practice, moving Kane to the left side with centre Alex Burmistrov and right-winger Nik Antropov. Brett MacLean, who played with Burmistrov and Antropov on Sunday, took over for Kane on a unit with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Wellwood.
“It makes for a good line,” Kane said. “We got a lot of speed, and Ants is a lot quicker than a lot of people think, so it’s pretty good.”
Kane’s next chance to show his new boss what he’s made of will take place on Thursday night at Chicago’s United Center, where the Jets will take on the Blackhawks in the first of a two-game road trip.
It’s a little risky using a 20-year-old as an example so early on in the season, but to whom much is given, much is expected.
“I just wanted a little bit more out of him,” Noel said. “I don’t equate an A game with only shots and only hits. I equate it with performance, like with everybody. So I would’ve liked his performance to be better, but I could’ve missed shifts with a lot of guys.
“I was trying to find chemistry, I was trying to figure out where we’re at, I wanted to see the reaction to maybe not being in the rotation for a couple of shifts, and that’s what you watch.”