SAN JOSE, California -- After giving up two power play goals in the third period against Arizona, the Winnipeg Jets are focused on playing a disciplined game against the San Jose Sharks. Although head coach Paul Maurice used a different word to describe it.
“It’s about focus, really. Everybody takes penalties, but focus on staying in the moment of the game,” Maurice said. “There’s a battle that goes on all night between players, individual one-on-ones. Some gets called and some doesn’t… We’re going to have to take a few hooks, and skate through them. We’re going to have to keep our sticks down, because if they go down we’re getting the call.
“Controlling that emotion and that energy level is just so important for us right now.”
The Jets saw their road record fall to 6-13-1 following the 4-2 loss to the Coyotes on New Year’s Eve. The Sharks are having similar difficulties winning in their own building so far this season, however. They’re 5-10-0 at SAP Center, and have yet to win consecutive games on home ice.
“Every team is good in this league. Some teams have bad stretches. Obviously we’re going through a bad stretch on the road right now,” said Drew Stafford. “Bottom line is we have an opportunity to start turning that thing around tonight.”
Despite giving up those two power play goals in Arizona, Maurice has liked what he’s seen from the penalty kill in the last six games. Over that span, the team has killed 17 of 22 opportunities. Mark Stuart played 4:48 of that shorthanded time against the Coyotes, and says the team’s confidence is growing on the penalty kill.
“It’s getting better,” Stuart said. “When we’re on our game we have a good PK. It’s just trying to be more consistent with it and getting on a roll. Unfortunately last game we gave up two more, but we’re doing the right things out there.”
Maurice agrees, but would like to see his team reduce the volume of penalties taken, especially on the road. On the flip side, he’d like to see power play start clicking like it was earlier in the season.
“When it’s good, it’s quick. We’re not dusting it off three times. When it’s not, you are. Confidence has a lot to do with it,” Maurice said. “There’s not a lot of teams running a whole lot of different schemes… The ones that are good get shots through quickly, and they move the puck to create the shooting lane… We don’t feel we’re that far off with it.”
Special teams could once again play a key role tonight. San Jose’s penalty kill at home is 29th in the NHL, at 72.3 percent. But their power play is the fifth best in the league.
“San Jose has a tremendous amount of speed especially coming out of their corners, up the ice. They always have,” Maurice said. “They can get to the net on you in straight lines, and if you’re not in the right place to start, you’re not catching them.”
But when the puck drops at 9 pm CT tonight, Stafford believes the Jets have to be focused on their own game, and not San Jose’s home record, power play, or anything else.
“We’ve talked a lot today, and yesterday, about our focus on our discipline. Things we can do to help our cause a little bit. The work ethic is there,” he said. “It’s more on the mental side of things as far as execution and keeping our focus on the big picture, and that’s winning games.”
After doing some off-ice work yesterday, Mark Scheifele skated with contact again today as he continues to rehabilitate from a concussion sustained on Boxing Day.
“He looks right, he feels right. We’ve been really careful with this one. If tomorrow he’s not absolutely 100 percent, we won’t consider him for the line up,” said Maurice. “If he absolutely is, then we’ll sit down with management and have a discussion.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com