January 4, 2012
Jets' Vincent right at home in Montreal
By TED WYMAN, QMI Agency
MONTREAL - Few people in Winnipeg know much about Pascal Vincent, but in these parts he’s a star.
It’s not every day you see an assistant coach with a throng of 20-plus media types surrounding him, but that’s what happens when you’re the only person on a team getting ready to face the Montreal Canadiens who speaks fluent French.
And did we mention Vincent’s name has been thrown out as a possible candidate to replace unilingual interim Habs head coach Randy Cunneyworth after this season?
Vincent held court with the French media for a good half hour Wednesday as the Jets put together final preparations for their evening matchup with the Habs (6:30 p.m.).
“Of course, there were questions about their situation but I’m not here to comment on what the Montreal Canadiens do,” Vincent said. “I’m here to support Claude Noel and help the Winnipeg Jets to win a hockey game.
“I care about today. What’s going to happen next year, two years, three years down the road, you know what? It doesn’t even exist in my life.”
The Jets (19-14-5) kick off a four-game road swing Wednesday night against the struggling Habs, who are 3-7 in their last 10 games and have slipped to 13th in the Eastern Conference.
Winnipeg will have defenceman Randy Jones in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 10. The veteran rearguard will replace Mark Flood and brings a 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame and an additional physical presence to the blue-line.
“I feel like I can step in and play on the PK,” Jones said. “I like to jump up in the play, I feel I can move the puck up out of our zone with quick passes and I feel my defensive game has grown quite a bit. Physically, I feel good so I just want to play hard and keep it simple.”
The Jets are searching for their fourth consecutive win and second in a row on the road, where they are 5-8-4 this season.
They are coming of their best month in franchise history, during which they went 10-3-1 while playing all but two games on home ice.
The road presents a different challenge for the Jets and Montreal is never an easy place to win a hockey game. The old Jets franchise, now known as the Phoenix Coyotes, went 2-21 in Montreal in its history, while the Atlanta Thrashers, now known as the Winnipeg Jets, went 5-15.
Right-winger Blake Wheeler said it doesn’t matter who the Jets are playing, every game is crucial at this point of the season, especially when it's against an Eastern Conference opponent.
“You really respect where we’ve come from, where we are now and where we have to be,” said Wheeler, whose team is ninth in East, but just three points out of fifth.
“We can’t rest on our laurels now. We’ve set ourselves up in a good position but there’s a lot of work to do and if we take our foot off the gas now, a lot of teams are going to pass us by.”
Scoring early and trying to take the Canadiens’ crowd out of the game will be key for the Jets.
“There’s nothing better than a quiet Bell Centre,” Wheeler said.
The Habs have struggles in almost every area this season and are a woeful 1-7 under Cunneyworth, who replaced the fired Jacques Martin, but they do have the second best penalty killing record in the league at 88.4%.
“Their goalie is the best player on the penalty kill,” Wheeler said. “We have to respect that he’s a very good goalie and get bodies and sticks in front of him and make it tough for him. If you do that you’re going to get some second chances and that’s how you’re going to score on this guy.”