ST. LOUIS, Missouri -- A difficult stretch of nine games in nine different cities comes to an end tonight when the Winnipeg Jets conclude their four-game road trip in St. Louis.
“It’s not an excuse, but it is a factor,” said Head Coach Paul Maurice. “We’ve had an opportunity to see a lot of the National Hockey League cities, and the pay off is you want to be .500 or better on the road, and you want to be a good road team. But there’s some home games in the bank now.”
The road trip through the difficult Central Division has been tough on the Jets. Losses to Minnesota, Dallas, and Nashville have resulted in Winnipeg falling to sixth spot in the division.
The focus at yesterday’s practice at Scottrade Center was on regaining confidence. That process starts tonight against the Blues, who won the only other meeting between the two teams this season, 4-2 back at MTS Centre. But Maurice says the responsibility of pulling the team out of the winless skid isn’t solely on the players who wear letters.
“This is the toughest thing to do in pro sports. To manufacture confidence when you don’t have a recent memory of being a confident team,” said Maurice. “Those guys need to do their leading in about eight or nine hours from now. The responsibility of getting this team turned around and playing the right way is on me.”
Instead of a morning skate, the Jets held a video session ahead of tonight’s match up. Mathieu Perreault, who scored one of the Jets’ goals in the previous meeting with St. Louis, said those sessions can help build individual and team confidence.
“We looked at the video, we thought we played a decent game. This was back when we had confidence and we were playing better. That’s what we want to go back to, and we’re going to come out and try to come out and play better today,” said Perreault. “You try to look at yourself doing good things. It gives you that confidence that you were doing it before, so you can still do it. It’s up to us to go out there and do it.
Any time these two teams meet, it’s a physical affair. They combined for 51 hits in their last meeting, and the Jets expect more of the same tonight. But that suits them just fine. Winnipeg is one of only two teams in the NHL to have three players in the top 13 in hits (Adam Lowry and Mark Stuart are tied for the team lead with 59, Dustin Byfuglien has 54), the other being the New York Islanders.
Maurice expects more of the same tonight.
“Lots of speed, lots of intensity, both teams will finish their checks hard. I think coming to the building you know what’s going to happen on the ice,” he said. “That gets that energy in both buildings too. In St. Louis games, I think they appreciate the intensity, certainly at home we do. It’s been a good match up for quality of a hard game.”
The Blues come into tonight having lost two straight games, including a 4-2 loss to Chicago on Saturday. Adam Pardy, whose last regular season game came against St. Louis on October 18, will be back in the line-up tonight, after being paired with Byfuglien at practice yesterday.
“You want to get in. You’re watching all your buddies out there working their tails off, and especially when you’re watching them lose games, it’s really tough to be out and not being able to do anything about it,” said Pardy after Sunday’s skate.
The 31-year-old Pardy played 12 minutes in the last meeting with the Blues.
“It’s all about moving that puck quick, and communication is a big thing against a team like this because they’re so well structured in their system,” said Pardy. “You don’t have a lot of time with the puck. It’s always a grind with these guys.”
Puck drop at Scottrade Center is set for 7 pm CT.