Jets set to 'make hay'

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (33) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against...

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (33) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the Boston Bruins in first period action during their NHL hockey game in Boston, Massachusetts November, 26 2011. (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 PM ET

Regroup. Re-energize. Reload.

That's what the Winnipeg Jets are going to try to do after completing what was probably the most difficult portion of their 2011-12 NHL schedule.

After playing 15 of their first 23 games on the road, it's clear the Jets are ready for some home cooking.

And they'll be getting plenty over the next month and change as they play 13 of the next 15 tilts at MTS Centre, beginning Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators.

"We've got to make hay. We're at home here and we have to make a dent," said Jets head coach Claude Noel, whose club currently sits 9-10-4 and is right in the hunt in terms of the congested playoff chase. "If you had told me we were one game below .500 at this point, with the road schedule we've had, I would rather not be but we've played well and the growth is good for me.

"I think if I asked our team if we think we can do better here over the next little while, knowing the teams that we've played against, how we need to do and the growth that needs to take place, they'd all say to a man that yeah, we can have success. And that's the important thing for us. For me, I see a lot of upside. When you lose the game, you're emotionally attached to the loss but when I look at the big picture, we're going to be fine."

Given their recent results -- both in sweeping a three-game hometsand against high-rent district Eastern Conference teams -- and in going 1-1-1 on this recent road swing that included games against the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins, the optimism is understandable.

"It was big for us, another confidence builder," Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian said when asked to assess the trip.

The Jets are getting contributions from players throughout the lineup and the growth in confidence begins with strong -- and often spectacular -- goaltending.

After Chris Mason stood tall on Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes in his first start in more than a month, Ondrej Pavelec was back in on Saturday and he played well against the Bruins in his 14th start in 15 games, turning aside 32 of 35 shots he faced.

"Our goaltending has been superb the whole trip," said Noel. "They really are a bright light on our team right now."

The Jets are playing better as a group and seem to be getting into a bit of a comfort zone as well, buying into to the program Noel and the Jets coaching staff are working to instill.

"It's a new coach, new system, he's getting to know the players and we're getting to know him," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "It does take time to figure out his expectations, what he's trying to do and what he needs from everyone.

"We've started to figure out what we need to do to be successful and how we need to play as a team. We know we have enough talent in here to win games. The thing with us is that when our speed is there, we're a tough team to play against. When it's not, we're pretty easy to play against. We have to make sure mentally that we make sure we have that speed every game. A lot of times, that is a mental thing, to be sure you're prepared to work every night."

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/WiebeSunSports


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