WINNIPEG - It's only December, but you wouldn't believe how much scoreboard watching is taking place among the Jets already.
For instance, when a game between the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres goes to a shootout, they cringe. Three-point games involving teams in and around eighth place in the Eastern Conference drive them nuts. Imagine what it will be like in March.
That’s why it’s critical for the Jets to earn as many extra points as possible. Losing one overtime or shootout game can be the difference between a playoff game and or a tee time. It therefore should be a concern that Ondrej Pavelec struggles in shootouts.
Take last Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders. Pavelec was brilliant for the first 65 minutes of the game, but he looked like a fish out of water in the shootout. The Isles scored on both of their chances, and two points became one just like that.
Despite Pavelec’s 4-11 career mark in the breakaway competition, the 24-year-old Czech is not concerned one bit.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Pavelec said recently. “Of course I want to win. Of course I want to help the team to get points, but there’s nothing really you can do about it.
“It’s 50-50 always in the shootouts. It’s part of the game. Of course I want to be better there for sure, but it’s not something that’s bothering me. I just try to work on it. I try to be better there.”
Like his netminder, Jets head coach Claude Noel isn’t pressing the panic button.
“I haven’t really concerned myself much with that,” Noel said. “You can practise that until you’re blue in the face, but it’s never the same when you’re in the game.”
The Jets have been in three shootouts this season, and Pavelec’s record is 1-2. Last year, when they were the Atlanta Thrashers, they had 12 shootouts and lost seven of them.
Pavelec’s career save percentage in shootouts is .548, which is the third-worst mark among goaltenders who have appeared in at least 10 shootouts.
NEXT UP: The Jets will host the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night at MTS Centre. It will be Winnipeg’s 11th home game of the month, and it is 7-2-1 so far.
The Kings have been playing much better since Terry Murray was fired two weeks ago and replaced by Darryl Sutter and had the same record as Winnipeg — 17-14-5 — prior to beating the Blackhawks 2-0 Wednesday night in Chicago. The Jets will have the luxury of facing a team playing on back-to-back nights for the second straight time. The Colorado Avalanche, whom the Jets beat 4-1 on Tuesday, played on Monday in Minnesota against the Wild.
FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS: Jets defenceman Mark Stuart has a soft spot in his heart for Colorado, having played three seasons at Colorado College.
“It’s always nice coming back here. I love this state,” Stuart said when the Jets were in the Mile High City. “I’ve got a lot of good memories here. It’s nice to see the mountains again, and I just love the weather here.
“It’s a great place to come back to for sure.”
IN THE HANGAR: Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury that forced him to miss Tuesday’s game … Centre Bryan Little (foot) is likely to miss his fifth straight game on Thursday, based on Noel’s comments earlier in the week … Thanks to Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to New Jersey on Wednesday night, the Jets remain in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.