Jets first pre-season win includes late rally from Oilers

- September 17th, 2013

While it’s only the third game of the pre-season, the Winnipeg Jets made things a little more difficult than they needed to be in a 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers at MTS Centre that represented the first win for the home side.

Cruising to a 3-0 triumph over an Oilers’ lineup that included six regulars and several others who could nail down spots on the opening-day roster would have been too easy for a Jets’ squad that probably included as many as 14 or 15 guys who could be in the lineup on opening night for them.

Instead, the Oilers scored a pair of goals — just 23 seconds apart — in the waning moments of the third to turn up the heat.

After a dominant second period that saw the Jets out-shoot the Oilers 16-8 and out-chance them by a wide margin, the Jets were back on their heels in the third — failing to record a shot on goal for more than half a period — before finally extending their lead to 3-0 on a goal from Anthony Peluso.

Philip Larsen found Mitchell Moroz on the backdoor to make it 3-1 at 16:31, then Larsen’s shot went off Jets’ winger James Wright and over Ondrej Pavelec.

Over to you Jets head coach Claude Noel.

“There were a lot of good things you could get out of the game,” said Noel, in his post-game statement before taking questions. “There (were) a lot of teaching moments, especially in the last three minutes.”

Although they would have preferred to simply lock the game down and not give up anything, there’s something to be said for battling through some adversity and finding a way to hang on for a win as well.

“We gave up two bad goals in the end that made it complicated, but other than that, it was a good game,” said Frolik, whose second-period power-play marker made it 1-0 for the Jets at 8:45 of the second period.

Frolik, acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks on draft day, is trying to show he can chip in some offence to go along with his sound defensive play and penalty-killing expertise.

This was a good step.

“That usually doesn’t happen to me, the rebound came right to my stick and I just tried to shoot it high. It was a good goal,” said Frolik, who roofed his shot to the glove side before Richard Bachman could react. “Obviously, it feels nice when you can be on the ice. The last couple of years I didn’t have too much of a chance on the power play in Chicago. It’s nice to be on the power-play and play (a few) more minutes. I’m going to try to (show) that I deserve these minutes.”

Frolik showed well on a unit with Mark Scheifele (four shots on goal) and Eric Tangradi, who had a pair of assists, including a sweet backhand pass to Carl Klingberg in the slot.

Tangradi, who is among the group of forwards battling for play on the third and fourth lines, also drew praise from Noel for his effort.

“He was physical, he banged,” said Noel. “I thought he made some decent plays and was all over the place.”

Jets centre Eric O’Dell seemed a bit more involved than in Sunday’s pre-season debut against the Ottawa Senators, picking up an assist on Klingberg’s goal while playing 12:05 of ice time. He’s in tough to crack the roster but needs to show a few things as he remains in camp, so that Noel will have him near the top of his NHL recall list when a need arises.

Jets rookie blue-liner Jacob Trouba had himself a much better game than his pre-season debut on Saturday against the Washington Capitals.

After telling me this morning that he had some trouble with the Olympic-sized ice at Yardmen Arena in the game against the Washington Capitals, Trouba looked much more composed in his second game, chipping in an assist (on Frolik’s goal) while finishing with four hits and two blocked shots in just under 20 minutes of work.

Trouba settled down nicely after an early turnover and while he was out-muscled down low a couple times, his positioning was much-improved and it’s games like this that are going to make the Jets decision about whether to start him in the NHL or the AHL to start the campaign much more difficult.

Just like I said after his pre-season opener, it’s important to remember that there’s a long way to go here for Trouba to nail down a job on the roster but I expect him to continue to make the decision tough.

Goalie Ondrej Pavelec looked sharp in this one. Though he certainly wasn’t busy, especially during the opening 40 minutes, he made a couple of tough saves when he had to.

Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien had a strong game, along with partner Grant Clitsome. Noel will say I’m over-reacting to the fact the two play together but I think the Jets might actually consider keeping the pair together once the season starts.

They played together last season and they complement each other well.

I know Toby Enstrom has been a security blanket for Byfuglien for the past few seasons, but it’s possible the Jets could benefit by having Enstrom play alongside Zach Bogosian.

It’s possible that Enstrom and Byfuglien are back together before the pre-season is complete, all I’m saying is that it’s something worth considering.

I led my game column with Byfuglien’s pre-season debut and wrote my early story on Clitsome, dealing with how he’s balancing the security of signing a three-year deal during the off-season and pushing to keep improving his game after establishing himself as a full-time NHLer.

Veteran Olli Jokinen played his first pre-season game and got a chance with Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi.

Noel said he liked what he saw from the trio, which was broken up out of necessity when Kane left the game in the third period with stomach cramps (playing only three shifts in the third and 16:49 total).

Jokinen did have two shots on goal in 15:38 of ice time.

I personally think there’s a better chance of Jokinen meshing with Frolik on the third line than finding chemistry with Kane (remember the two of them played together for most of last season, with mixed results).

My position is that the Jets would be better off giving Scheifele a longer look with Kane and Setoguchi and if he shows that he’s not quite ready, then move Jokinen back with them.

Either way, there’s still plenty of time to find out, with five pre-season games remaining before the Jets face the Oilers on Oct. 1 at Rexall Place.

Quick thought about the Oilers, Russian F Nail Yakupov has some serious talent. That’s not exactly a newsflash but this was my first chance to see him live and he didn’t disappoint. He’s got great speed and creativity, finishing with a team-high five shots on goal to go along with an assist.

Speaking of the Oilers, nice touch by the Jets to produce a video montage saluting former Manitoba Moose captain (and Jets’ D-man) Dallas Eakins on his first NHL head coaching job.

Eakins gave the fans a quick wave and told reporters afterward that Winnipeg holds a special place in his heart.

I had an opportunity to cover Eakins when he served as Moose captain and he’s a class act. An insightful, student-of-the-game and I think he’ll do a great job with this young Oilers’ squad.

Back to the Jets, during his post-game address Noel hinted again that more cuts are coming this week.

Last time he said that, the axe fell the following day, so don’t be surprised to see a few more players reassigned on Wednesday.

Columnist Paul Friesen will be there to handle Wednesday’s Jets’ coverage and I’ll be back in action Thursday, before the Jets take on the Minnesota Wild at MTS Centre in the final home game of the week.

Categories: Hockey

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