Jets hope to begin turnaround under Maurice vs. Coyotes

11:06 AM, Jan 13, 2014   |    comments
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( - A lineup shuffle didn't help the Winnipeg Jets avoid their longest losing streak of the season. Now the franchise is banking on a coaching change to get the club on track.

Paul Maurice will make his debut behind the Jets bench on Monday night in a home matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Winnipeg is on a season-worst five-game slide, going winless on a three-game road trip before back-to-back home losses to Tampa Bay and Columbus. Saturday's 6-3 setback to the Blue Jackets was the last game for coach Claude Noel, who was fired on Sunday.

Winnipeg is last in the Central Division with 43 points, 12 back of the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

Noel had guided Winnipeg to winning seasons in each of its first two years since the franchise moved from Atlanta, but the Jets came up short of a playoff berth both times.

On Saturday, he moved defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to the forward position and slotted rookie Eric O'Dell on the second line to replace the injured Evander Kane (hand).

O'Dell scored a first-period goal versus the Blue Jackets, his first career NHL tally, and Byfuglien had an assist, but the Jets trailed 4-1 by the midway point of the second period.

"It became apparent that things were not trending in the right direction," said Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff on Sunday. "It's the consistency factor. We always questioned ourselves internally -- why .500? Why one ahead and two back?"

Maurice, meanwhile, is back in the NHL after an absence of more than two years. He was fired by the Carolina Hurricanes in November of 2011 and spent the 2012-13 season in the Kontinental Hockey League.

The 46-year-old Ontario native owns a career NHL coaching mark of 460-457-167 with Hartford/Carolina (1995-04, 2008-11) and Toronto (2006-08).

He'll offer a clean slate for the struggling Jets, who are trying to avoid losing six in a row for the first time since March 6-14, 2010.

"We understand that in this business, if you're not performing up to standards, something is going to happen," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "So now you try to use Paul when he comes in here and try to get excited about the system that he's playing and roles he may have you in.

"We're going to be auditioning early for him for ice time so hopefully that gets everybody going."

The Coyotes will also try to get going following a 2-4-0 homestand that ended with Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Martin Hanzal, Lauri Korpikoski and Mike Ribeiro all scored and Radim Vrbata assisted on each goal.

However, Thomas Greiss allowed four goals on 23 shots before being pulled in the second period, with Mike Smith stopping six of the seven shots he faced in relief as the Coyotes slipped four points back of eight place in the West.

"Right now, we're not very good, and we haven't been very good for a while," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "We've been fooling ourselves with finding ways to come back and get points."

The Coyotes had won seven in a row over the Jets franchise before a 1-0 loss in Winnipeg in the most recent meeting on Dec. 1, 2011.

Smith is 7-5-0 with a 2.33 goals against average in 12 career meetings with the Jets.

Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who gave up six goals on 26 shots in Saturday's loss, is 1-1-1 with a 1.96 GAA in three encounters with the Coyotes.

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