Noel brings levity as Jets prepare for Panthers

- April 10th, 2013

Let’s call it Claude being Claude.

You know, like Manny being Manny when the slugger named Ramirez was still a member of the Boston Red Sox.

Winnipeg Jets Claude Noel was in his element on Wednesday during his daily media session, one that started with a little talk about the Masters, ended with talk about his new golf clubs and golf game, with a reference to mid-body injuries and dinosaurs sprinkled somewhere in between.

Yes, it was one of those days when Noel was in a talkative mood and he managed to mix in a few random thoughts during a discussion that lasted nearly 12 minutes and also included plenty of discussion about Wednesday’s opponent, the Florida Panthers — who are occupying the cellar in the Eastern Conference but have won four of five and show no signs of giving up despite a rash of injuries to prominent players.

One of the topics on the mind of most reporters on Wednesday was the status of Jets D Toby Enstrom, who left Tuesday’s game in the first period with an undisclosed injury after taking a hit from Buffalo Sabres forward Steve Ott.

Many folks were worried the injury was related to the shoulder issue that kept Enstrom on the shelf for more than a month earlier this season. It’s not. When I asked Noel if it was his back, he waffled a bit but as mentioned after the game, this looks like a case of back spasms for Enstrom, so his availability for the game won’t be known until Thursday morning — or game time.

“He’s a little bit sore today,” Noel explained, before I followed up to ask if it was his back that was injured. “In that general area. It’s mid-body range. We’ve taken it to another level. Upper body, lower body — we’re going mid-range now.”

There was some buzz on Twitter from fans wondering if the injury to Enstrom might open the door for the debut of 2012 first rounder Jacob Trouba.

While he’s an option Noel will consider, the smart money is on Paul Postma to draw in, if Enstrom can’t go.

I spoke briefly with Postma and he said he’d be ready if the call comes.

Since Wednesday was an optional skate, Trouba still has only one full NHL practice under his belt and Noel would be asking a lot of Trouba to throw him right into the fire. Trouba would love to play and he’s doing what he can to get up to speed, but I don’t see him being an option until next week (at the earliest) but only time will tell.

Otherwise, it was a relatively quiet day for the Jets, as only 12 skaters — Dustin Byfuglien, Trouba, Postma, Derek Meech, Arturs Kulda, Anthony Peluso, Mike Santorelli, James Wright, Antti Miettinen, Aaron Gagnon, Chris Thorburn and Eric Tangradi — and both goalies, though Ondrej Pavelec left the skate a bit early, then returned in a track suit and regular skates (instead of goalie skates) and went for a little twirl.

When asked how his hands were, Pavelec and said “not good” so there’s no danger of Pavelec switching to forward or defence anytime soon.

Unlike many goalies, Pavelec actually never played a position other than goalie, which may help explain why he always wants to be in the net and continues to say that he wants to play every game.

With only seven games left in the regular season, Pavelec might actually get the chance to play the rest of the games.

Pavelec has appeared in 37 of the Jets 41 games so far, starting 36 of them. He’s played 2,121 minutes and 57 seconds, posting a 17-18-2 record with a 2.77 goals against average and .906 save percentage, making 944 saves on the season.

Once again, Noel was asked if he was concerned about Pavelec perhaps needing a little rest during the stretch drive. Pavelec is sure to like the answer.

“It’s funny, it doesn’t concern me too much with him,” said Noel. “He’s managed it well. If he was older… it would be tougher. But it’s good for him. And he’s enjoying it. He views it as a challenge. He feels good. Goes out for the optionals. He’s trying to figure out ways to manage it. It’s hard to argue with the way he’s played.”

Hard to argue indeed.

There’s little doubt Pavelec will be in goal against the Panthers on Thursday and with four days off until the next game, he will be fresh for all three games next week as well.

After that, there’s only three games left in the regular and despite the back-to-back road games against the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres on Apr. 22 and 23, it’s hard to imagine Al Montoya gets another start — unless the Jets get mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture.

That’s not a knock on Montoya, who has proven he can play. Were it not for his two lower-body injuries, I’m almost certain he would have hit my target of 10 starts in the shortened season. However, with the stakes being so high, Noel has little choice but to ride his No. 1 guy for the duration here.

We have another extensive package in the Winnipeg Sun and at www.winnipegsun.com as columnist Paul Friesen and I covered a lot of bases heading into Thursday’s game.

Friesen’s column is on the streakiness of these Jets, he also gives a bit of context on the dinosaur talk and I don’t want to spoil it for you.

My piece tees up the game with the Panthers and has some interesting thoughts from Santorelli (who gave a good scouting report and will be facing his old team just over a week after he was claimed off waivers by the Jets), Tangradi and Thorburn.

Be sure to check everything out and let us know what you think.

Before I get some sleep, there’s plenty of talk about the playoff picture right now and here’s an updated box of where things stand after Wednesday’s action (in terms of teams the Jets are chasing right now):

*3. Washington Capitals (44 pts, 8 GR) — HOME (6): Tampa Bay, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Boston; AWAY (2): Ottawa, Montreal

6. Ottawa Senators (44 points, 9 GR) — HOME (5): Carolina, Washington, Toronto, Pittsbugh, Philadelphia. AWAY (4): Philadelphia, New Jersey, Boston, Washington.

7. New York Islanders (44 pts, 8 GR) — HOME (2): New York Rangers, Florida; AWAY (6): Boston, Toronto, Winnipeg, Carolina, Philadelphia, Buffalo

8. New York Rangers (44 pts, 8 GR) — HOME (3): Florida, New Jersey, New Jersey; AWAY (5): New York Islanders, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Florida, Carolina

*9. Winnipeg (42 pts, 7 GR) — HOME (5): Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina, New York Islanders, Montreal; AWAY (2): Buffalo, Washington

10. New Jersey (40 pts, 8 GR) — HOME (4): Ottawa, Florida, Montreal, Pittsburgh; AWAY (4): Toronto, Philadelphia, New York Rangers, New York Rangers

11. Buffalo (38 pts, 8 GR) — HOME (6): Montreal, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, New York Rangers, Winnipeg, New York Islanders; AWAY (2): Boston, Pittsburgh

12. Philadelphia (37 pts, 9 GR) — HOME (5): Ottawa, New York Rangers, New Jersey, Boston, New York Islanders; AWAY (4): Buffalo, Montreal, Carolina, Ottawa

*13. Tampa Bay (36 pts, 9 GR) — HOME (4): Pittsburgh, Carolina, Toronto, Florida; AWAY (5): Washington, Buffalo, Winnipeg, Montreal, Boston

*14. Carolina (34 pts, 9 GR) — HOME (4): Boston, Philadelphia, New York Islanders, New York Rangers; AWAY (5): Washington, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh

* Southeast Division teams

I’ll be back Thursday morning with a look at projected lineups, etc following the morning skate.

 

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