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Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel preaching `defensive awareness' at camp

WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Jets know they have to improve their defensive play if they want to make the playoffs this season.
Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel talks to Dustin Byfuglien (33) on day three of training camp in Winnipeg on Tuesday, January 15, 2013. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Jets know they have to improve their defensive play if they want to make the playoffs this season.

Jets coach Claude Noel is preaching defensive awareness at training camp as he works to cut down on opposition scoring opportunities.

"We're trying to make sure that we're defending either coming back into D-zone coverage, and our awareness of people in the zone, which we worked on today," he said Wednesday.

"And same with our positioning in the defensive zone, we're trying to make sure we're protecting certain areas of the ice and we're making sure we're not giving up good . . . scoring opportunities from key areas."

The Jets gave up 245 goals last season, ranking them 26th in the league. Only the New York Islanders, Columbus, Toronto and Tampa Bay surrendered more.

Defenceman Tobias Enstrom, pretty well the most reliable player the Jets have in their own end, says they have to be better there and they also have to be better on the road.

"We have to be a lot better than last year," he said. "At home we're playing really well."

The Jets went 23-13-5 at the sold-out MTS Centre last season before screaming fans, but were just 37-35-10 overall because of their road woes.

"We've got to work more as a team," Enstrom said.

"We've got to play in both ends. I know we can score goals and everybody knows we can score goals so we've got to try and play a little bit better in our own end."

With a short training camp and a short season, however, he says there isn't a lot of time to try new things.

"I don't think we're going to get into a lot of changes from last year," he said.

"There will be some different stuff you might see out there but other than that I feel like we've got to stick with what we believe in and try to get everything going in the beginning."

It doesn't help that Zach Bogosian is missing from the defence for at least a month as he recovers from wrist surgery.

Forward Nik Antropov was back on the ice Wednesday as he recovers from getting banged up in the KHL before reporting to the Jets.

He was on the ice as part of a line with Alex Burmistrov and new addition Alexei Ponikarovsky, but it still isn't known whether he'll be ready for the Jets first game Saturday against Ottawa.

The Jets also grabbed big right-winger Anthony Peluso off waivers from St. Louis on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old was playing with the AHL's Peoria Rivermen this season but coach Noel sees him filling the kind of role played by Tanner Glass last season on the Jets' fourth line.

At six-foot-four and 234 pounds, he adds size to the position.

"The reports that we get on him is a decent skater than can play some minutes," said Noel.

"The important thing for us is he can play some minutes. I have no interest in having a two or three-minute guy."

Noel just laughed when told fans would be happy. The line of Glass, Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn was dubbed the GST line and now it can be the PST line.

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