WINNIPEG - Claude Noel knows his Winnipeg Jets will have a hard time making it three back-to-back wins when they meet the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.
The Jets have been hot at home lately but the Stanley Cup champ Bruins have simply burned up the opposition, and Noel isn't looking for much of an edge from the fact the Bruins will play the conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night.
"It helps you maybe . . (but) teams like that know how to play back-to-back nights," the head coach said after practice Monday.
It's been 14 games since the Bruins suffered a loss in regulation and they won 10 straight to start November. As of Monday afternoon, their only loss since Oct. 29 was the 4-3 shootout they dropped to Detroit Nov. 25.
"They've got a lot of depth, they can close out games in a lot of different ways, they can hurt you with a lot of different people," Noel said.
Confidence, depth and a great checking game are what the Jets have to deal with if they want another win, he said.
When they last met Nov. 26, Winnipeg jumped into an early 2-0 lead only to see the game turn into a 4-2 loss.
"We didn't play well in the second period is what happened. We got into penalty problems, they scored goals and they showed why they're on this roll," the coach said. "They just keep playing the same way and eventually they catch up with you. . .
"We're a little bit more mature now, (it's a) little later and we're playing a little better, so we'll see how it goes."
One of the youngest teams in the NHL, the Jets displayed lots of speed and energy but perhaps not as much focus and discipline at the start of the season.
There have been signs that is changing, particularly when it comes to penalties like the two minutes Alexander Burmistrov took in their loss to Boston for boarding Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
It may have been gutsy—a six-one, 180-pound newcomer taking on a six-nine, 255-pound veteran—but getting a penalty for it wasn't smart, said Noel. It also created a brief five-on-three although it didn't end up costing Winnipeg anything.
"It wasn't that intelligent a play . . . If you want to hit him, hit him clean," Noel said.
His players say they know what they have to do.
Blake Wheeler is part of the Jets' most productive line lately with Evander Kane and Brian Little and he also spent a few seasons playing with Boston.
"As long as we come into this game knowing it's going to be probably our toughest test yet then that's a good start and if we play them tough, in this league anything can happen," he said.
Being at home is an advantage, agrees defenceman Zach Bogosian.
"We've just got to make sure we're playing our style of hockey and getting the crowd into it right away," he says.
After being on the road for large chunks of October and November, Noel has been turning the current more friendly home schedule into a teachable moment.
"Any time you get a chance to work at home . . . you get more and more comfortable and probably get to work on a lot more things than you don't get to work on the road," said Bogosian.
"We're taking advantage of it, doing defensive zone plays and making sure we're prepared for the teams ahead of us."
Kane, the Jets' leading goal scorer with 14 this season, says apart from their second period lapse last time they met, they played pretty well against the Bruins.
"If we can play a little more consistently throughout the entire game, we can give ourselves a chance to win."