Jets forming an identity

Winnipeg Jets left winger Tanner Glass (l) and Philadelphia Flyers right winger Matt Read tangle...

Winnipeg Jets left winger Tanner Glass (l) and Philadelphia Flyers right winger Matt Read tangle during third period NHL hockey in Winnipeg on November 19, 2011. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI AGENCY)

Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

WINNIPEG - The highs have been remarkably high, the lows painfully low.

As the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 made their return to the NHL, there have been some monumental mood swings as far as the on-ice product goes.

Growing pains were surely expected as the Jets inherited an Atlanta Thrashers squad that had let losing become a bad habit.

Jets management understood the process would take time and that theory has held true during the first quarter of the 2011-12 season, but a recent surge has shown there is reason for genuine optimism.

The first quarter was about trying to establish a new standard of work, as head coach Claude Noel likes to call it.

That process is ongoing, but a recent three-game winning streak has reminded the Jets that winning is a lot more fun than the alternative.

At the 20-game mark, the Jets boast a record of 8-9-3, which leaves them fourth in the Southeast Division.

The 19 points accumulated leaves them in the running when it comes to the playoff chase and knocking off the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers to cap a three-game homestand has given their collective confidence a much-needed shot in the arm.

“It’s a new team, a new city and new coaches and it takes a while for it to gel together and for everyone to get on one page,” said Jets centre Bryan Little. “It’s looking like it’s starting to turn around, especially this week, it’s been great for us.

“We kind of learned from it that we can play this way every night and do well.”

The Jets played 12 of the first 17 games on the road, but they seemed to get a little more comfortable playing in front of their rabid crowd during the past week as well.

Creating a true home-ice advantage before 15,004 at MTS Centre is going to be key for the Jets going forward, especially with 12 of 14 games to be played there during the month of December.

“It’s awesome, I’ve never experienced playing in front of a home crowd like this,” said Little. “It’s kind of settled down. I think at the start of the year it was a bit overwhelming for us. We were a bit nervous and now we’re using the energy in the building and it helps us.”

Injuries are simply part of the game at any level, but the Jets have dealt with an abundance of them during the first quarter, playing much of it with as many as five blue-liners on the shelf — which would be a challenge for any team in the NHL.

There have been some tough moments dealing with adversity, but the Jets seem to be finding their way and the depth on defence in the organization is shining through right now.

“We’re kind of gathering momentum and it’s good we’re playing this way, despite guys getting hurt, line changes and players moving up and down,” said Little.

Goaltending has been at the heart of the Jets turnaround, as Ondrej Pavelec has been a key cog after a slow start.

Pavelec made his 12th consecutive start on Saturday and has appeared in 18 of the 20 games.

He’s been a workhorse and is currently giving his team that type of goaltending that will be required to make a playoff push.

“It was a tough start but then we realized some things,” said Pavelec. “So far, so good. There’s always something to improve. But we’ve got a young team. It was a rough start, but we’ve won a couple of games and hopefully, we’re going to be on a roll.”

Lastly, after a disappointing start of his own, defenceman Dustin Byfuglien has settled in and started to live up to his potential.

“He’s a force,” said Little. “He’s a big guy and when he’s going, there’s no one stopping him.”


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