Kane responds to Noel's criticism

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf checks Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane (R) during...

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf checks Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane (R) during the first period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto January 5, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:41 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Claude Noel and Evander Kane both said all the right things on Thursday, two days after the coach lit into the 20-year-old forward.

Noel was asked an innocent question about Kane being benched for a couple of shifts and being shuffled down to the second line after Tuesday's 5-3 loss to Boston, and the Jets head coach let loose.

"For me, I wasn't happy with the way he started the game," Noel said after the game. "Either you are going to play or you're not. Figure it out. I'm not going to wait for him to start. The game has started. I saw two or three shifts, and I'd seen enough.

"It's like, what do you want to do here? If you want to be a key player on our team, if that's what you think you want to be, then get ready to play the game, like everybody else."

On Thursday, Noel said it was never his intention to get Kane to raise his game by tearing into him publicly -- and never will be. Basically, Noel he was baited into his emotional answer.

"It's pretty easy how you decide to do it publicly. You don't do it again. That's what you do," Noel said. "You have to remember -- and I have to remember -- that you get into emotions from the game, and you guys (in the media) are very good at provoking emotions. That's what you do. And when you get caught you pay the price. That's something that I'll be ready for next time."

Noel even suggested he would become a "generic coach" and not the colourful character the media has come to know and love because of his juicy quotes and sound bites. Noel even took a page from Mike Kelly's book, calling the Kane saga a "non-issue."

Kane, who has struggled with consistency in his third NHL season, was second on the team with 31 points in 41 contests prior to Thursday's clash with the San Jose Sharks. Kane admitted he played harder when he returned from his mini-benching on Tuesday night.

"Yeah, I had to," he said. "I don't like sitting on the bench. I don't like not playing. I don't like not being able to contribute. When I got the opportunity to get back in the game, I wanted to skate a little harder and try and play a little harder."

Kane didn't have an opinion on whether or not that's the best way to send a message to a player, but the bottom line is he received it loud and clear.

"That's the coach's job, to do what he thinks is best for the team," Kane said. "I want to be able to contribute and want to be able to help the team out. I need to be better. I know I can be better, and I will be better."

Even though Noel said he only deals with players face to face and not through the media, he and Kane had not spoken about Tuesday's game as of noon on Thursday.

After having a chat with Eric Fehr and telling him to get better, Noel told the media the same thing a few days later. Fehr believes the public scolding provided a spark.

"I think it might have worked for me," Fehr said. "I'm playing better the last couple of games, and I'm feeling a lot better on the ice."

-- with files from Ken Wiebe

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/PentonKirk


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