WINNIPEG - If Eric Fehrís feelings were hurt by Claude Noelís frank assessment of his play to date, the Winnipeg Jets forward wasnít letting on.
After the Jets didnít make Fehr available to the media to respond to the criticism offered by his head coach on Monday, the right-winger met with a group of reporters on Tuesday and actually agreed with Noelís position that he needs to play better in order to earn additional ice time.
ďIím not really too worried about the criticism from above, Iím criticizing myself every game and Iím not happy with the way Iím playing,Ē said Fehr, who has one assist in 14 games since returning from off-season shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. ďIím more concerned about working on my game. Thatís something Iíve been doing all season. Itís not like now that the coach said something, Iím going to be working extra hard. Iíve been working hard all season, so Iím going to push forward and hope for the best.
ďIím happy to be playing hockey right now. Itís a bit of a bump in the road, but Iíll get things figured out.Ē
Fehr, 26, admitted he was a little surprised that Noel took his comments public but wasnít concerned about it.
ďCoach and I talk often about things,Ē said Fehr, the 18th overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. ďItís not a big deal and itís not the big deal you guys are making it out to be. Coaches and players talk all the time.Ē
Fehr has been used mostly on the fourth line this season and has seen limited minutes, averaging 8:30 per game and managing only 16 shots on goal. He knows he needs to get to the net more and do a better job of creating scoring chances.
ďItís been tougher for me than I had expected,Ē said Fehr, who has 46 goals and 94 points in 144 NHL games during his career. ďItís a fast game and I havenít necessarily picked up the pace that I want to be playing at. Iíve been playing better my last couple of games. Maybe Iím keeping it a bit too simple.
ďBeing on the fourth line, you donít want to make too many mistakes. Iíve been limiting my creativity and maybe I can work a little more on that and trying to be more offensive.Ē
Noel dished out a few compliments to Fehr on Tuesday and expressed his desire to help Fehr come out of his funk.
ďI have a good relationship with Eric. Heís a very sincere player and a very sincere guy,Ē said Noel. ďHe means well and he wants to do well. If youíve had two shoulder surgeries and youíve been out for training camp and a good part of the summer, it takes a toll on you mentally. Itís not an easy thing to overcome, whether itís Eric or anybody.
ďHeíll sort through it. Heís a pro. Heíll be just fine. Iím not in the business of sinking people. Iím in the business of helping people. Eric knows the player he is and how he can play and thatís what he wants to get back to being. What he has to do is figure out what stands in his way.Ē
The Jets open a four-game road trip on Wednesday at the Bell Centre against the Montreal Canadiens.
Although centre Bryan Little (who missed the past six games with a foot injury) skated on his own Tuesday and will accompany the team, he wonít likely be available until Saturdayís game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien (knee) wonít travel with the Jets, but might be ready for the Jan. 10 game against the Boston Bruins.