-- The Winnipeg Jets
made a strong December a team mission, and they close out the month with the benefits to show for accomplishing that mission.
The Jets set a new franchise mark with a 10-3-1 December, the best month in team history, and posted wins over the likes of the Boston Bruins
and Minnesota Wild
, among other upper-echelon competition.
"We were talking as a team before our big homestand here that we wanted to win nine or 10 games," Jets forward Kyle Wellwood
recalled, "and it seemed like a lofty goal at the time, but we've been able to come together and do it."
With 12 December games at the MTS Centre in front of their fanatical fans, the Jets rolled off a 9-2-1 home record to climb from 13th place to seventh in the Eastern Conference.
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"We made hay," Jets coach Claude Noel
said. "We really played well through the month, and we have to carry that through. When you look at the game tonight and the games this month, the biggest difference is our team play is really solid. We're responsible. We're playing with some real passion, and we're doing some really good things. I don't see it changing on the road. Maybe there's a little difference in battle level, but all in all we've done good."
But the Jets now face some post-holiday bills to pay with January's arrival. The Jets begin a four-game road trip this coming week in Montreal and will play nine of 13 games in January away from Winnipeg. Bringing the effort they display each night in front of their fans will be crucial on the road for the Jets.
"We should carry this swagger over," right wing Blake Wheeler
said. "We should bring this on the road with us and have the same mentality, the same fight we have at home and just want to go out and do the same thing on the road. If we can be a good road team, then we're going to be right there in the end."
But Winnipeg's five road wins this season are the second-fewest in the Eastern Conference. The Jets have emphasized that they must improve their 5-8-4 road record and took a step toward that goal on Tuesday by ending Colorado's eight-game home winning streak in taking a 4-1 decision against the Avalanche.
"We want to keep climbing," defenseman Zach Bogosian
said. "We can't be satisfied. We haven't had a chance to prove that we're good on the road yet, but we're going to be thrown right into the fire. It's going to be a good challenge, a good test."
Among the stops on the Jets' itinerary will be stops to play Boston, New Jersey, the New York Rangers
, Ottawa and Philadelphia, all teams that currently occupy some of the top-eight spots in the Eastern Conference.
"That's the hard part," Wellwood said of the upcoming schedule. "This was the easy part of the season, December. We can be happy that we got ourselves in a playoff spot [now], and that's what we wanted. We're satisfied with that, but January's the tough month and you've got to play at least .500 or better. So we've got to do that."