WINNIPEG - For a team that just lost two in a row, the Winnipeg Jets were in a pretty good mood Monday at their last practice before hitting the road this week.
"Sometimes you have to fight to stay positive and that's your biggest challenge," said coach Paul Maurice.
But he says they have reason to focus on the future rather than fret about their losses to the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues.
"Far bigger chunks of our game are solid than they were even a month ago. The effort in a lot of areas is really good."
It doesn't hurt that the Jets are heading back out on the road, where they have had better success than at home this season.
And it also doesn't hurt that their first two opponents are Columbus and Buffalo, who are tied with Edmonton in the NHL cellar at 14 points apiece.
"These are games that we feel that we should win," agreed forward Jim Slater, who scored his first goal of the season in the Jets' 4-2 loss to the Blues Sunday.
"(But) we're not going to get too ahead of ourselves because the league is very tight every night and any team can beat any team. . . But we've been pretty solid on the road this year and we're looking to continue that."
The Jets are 6-4-2 on the road and 4-5-1 at home. At 23 points they were 16th in the league standings, ninth in the Western Conference and fourth in the Central Division Monday morning, but just a point ahead of the Minnesota Wild, who had a date with the Florida Panthers Monday night.
"You've got to be pretty close to that top eight (in each conference) to stay in the fight all the way through," says Maurice.
"The day after (American) Thanksgiving, having 15 on the road, 10 at home, we're hoping that's turned out to be a good thing because we've played pretty darn well on the road."
Winnipeg has a back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday in Columbus and Buffalo before closing their road trip in Boston Friday.
Defenceman Mark Stuart doesn't like getting drawn into comparisons of their road and home record.
"I don't really like to talk about road and home very much," he says. they're games against teams that we need points (from). It doesn't matter what building you're playing in. You've got to play well and you've got to get points."
Forward Evander Kane says they go into every game expecting to win.
"We want to win every game on the road but it starts in Columbus," said Kane. "There's six points up for grabs and we want to try to get all six."
The Jets continue to play a more physical, defensive style of hockey that is keeping them competitive against some of the best in the league. But their power play has been weak all season, shows no sign of improving, and their penalty killing has finally started to show cracks.
The Jets take a lot of penalties and St. Louis scored two power-play goals Sunday night to come from behind for the win. Winnipeg gave up another to Detroit.
"We gave up some uncharacteristic plays off the PK," Kane said of the Blues game.
The Jets still sit in eighth spot in the league with a success rate of 84.5 per cent, even after the losses to Detroit and St. Louis.
Scoring in general continues to be a problem though for the more defensively focused Jets. The Jets are ahead of only Buffalo with a goals-per-game average of just 1.96.
"It's been definitely different than it has been in the past," admits Kane, who scored 30 in his first season in Winnipeg and has just two in the 14 games he's played since returning from injury. "You score one or two goals as a team."
The flip side of the coin is only three teams ??? St. Louis, Nashville and Chicago ??? are doing better at keeping goals out of their own nets and Kane and the rest of the team haven't lost faith in Maurice's plan.