Jets battling road bugaboo
Kirk Penton, QMI Agency
|The road has been a tough place for the Jets and winger Evander Kane who says the team has to find a way to turn the successful way they play at home into a portable skill. (RICK OSENTOSKI/US PRESSWIRE FILES)
The road. It can be a lot of fun, especially when you’re talking about Vegas, Cancun or the Caribbean.
Mention the road around the Winnipeg Jets, however, and you might send a few shivers down the spine. The Jets have been floundering whenever they’ve left the friendly confines of Manitoba, losing seven of their last eight away from home (including three via overtime or shootout) and sporting a 4-8-4 record overall.
Then again, the Jets have played only one road game in the last 30 days. And while that game was a humbling 7-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, it came one night after the Jets had to play at home and fly to Michigan immediately afterwards.
In the bigger picture, the Jets maintain their less-than-stellar road record is the result of playing much of their early-season schedule away from MTS Centre, when they were still trying to come together in a new city.
The Jets are back on the road Tuesday night in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche, who beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 for their fifth straight win Monday night in St. Paul, Minn. The Jets would have been sawing logs in their Denver hotel rooms while the Avs were flying back after their game against the Wild.
That could certainly help the Jets, who have shown the inability to play with the same passion and enthusiasm on the road as they have at home. Winnipeg is missing that spark their fans give them at home, and they need to find a way to make their own energy when they don’t have their 15,004 supporters behind them.
Head coach Claude Noel said the Jets will have much more confidence away from home after their extended December stay in Winnipeg.
“We have to start winning some games on the road,” Noel said. “If you’re going to be a playoff-contending team, which we hope to be, I think you have to start getting to .500 on the road, and that has to be our next goal.
“We’ve managed to do well here at home. We’ve managed to really make some hay, as I said before, while we could, but it’s time to get our road record going. We’ve got a ways to go to get to .500, so it will be a good challenge. We’re playing better in the general sense of things, so it will be good.”
The Jets have a chance to pounce on the Avs, who should be tired, but they also might have to overcome their own Christmas blahs after getting a two-day break from their jobs.
“The way we play at home, when we’re playing well, we gotta kind of bring that on the road,” winger Evander Kane said. “We’re a team that can play either at home or on the road, and I don’t think the statistics really say too much about the team. It’s just the way it is.
“We’re definitely looking to turn that around, though.”
The Jets are 7-3-1 at home since late November, and they believe that is the real identity of the team.
“I’m looking forward to getting out on the road now,” winger Tanner Glass said. “This was a good home stand. We got a lot of practice time. It was nice to be home, and we had the fans behind us, but good teams win on the road. I’m looking forward to that challenge.
“As you grow with a young team like this, as you go along in the season, you expect to be better, and I think we are better now than we were at the start of the year.”