Coyotes-Jets Preview

The Associated Press

A fifth straight loss sealed Claude Noel's fate as coach of the Winnipeg Jets.

Now, it'll be up to Paul Maurice to begin turning around their season.

Maurice will make his debut behind the bench Monday night when the last-place Jets try to end their skid against the sputtering Phoenix Coyotes.

Winnipeg (19-23-5) has missed the playoffs in its first two seasons since relocating from Atlanta, falling short by just four points in 2012-13 when it was still in the Eastern Conference. However, the team has dropped into the Central Division cellar after moving to the West.

The Jets have shown few signs of improvement, especially lately. They've dropped a season-high five games in a row while surrendering 24 goals, and were booed off the ice at MTS Centre after falling 6-3 to Columbus on Saturday.

That was enough for them to dismiss Noel and assistant Perry Pearn on Sunday.

"I think it always comes as a shock," captain Andrew Ladd said. "I don't think anyone expected it. Two good people lose their job. Ultimately, it came down to the performance of all the guys in here. It's tough for everyone."

Noel was hired after the Jets moved to Winnipeg, compiling an 80-79-18 record. He's being replaced by Maurice, who agreed to a deal for the remainder of the season.

Maurice previously coached the Hartford/Carolina franchise during two separate stints and Toronto. In 15 seasons behind the bench, Maurice's teams have qualified for the playoffs four times, with the Hurricanes reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 2002.

He hasn't been in the NHL since being fired by Carolina in November 2011, and spent last season with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL.

Maurice is inheriting a team that's on the verge of six straight defeats for the first time since March 6-14, 2010. The Jets are among the league's worst defensively (3.00 goals per game) and on the power play (15.0 percent).

"All of us should be embarrassed that we're at the point we have to change the coach," center Olli Jokinen said.

The change could mean Dustin Byfuglien will return to defense after Noel moved him to right wing against the Blue Jackets. He had an assist on a power-play goal by Bryan Little while playing on the top line, which also includes Ladd.

Byfuglien's 35 points are one back of Little for the team lead.

Blake Wheeler leads Winnipeg with 16 goals, but was demoted to the third line with Jokinen on Saturday. The right wing, recently named to the U.S. Olympic team, has one goal and one assist with a minus-6 rating in his last six games.

He has an assist in each of the last two meetings with Phoenix. One of them came on Little's goal in a 1-0 win Dec. 1, 2011, ending a six-game slide in the series. That was also the Coyotes' first visit to Winnipeg since leaving for Phoenix in 1996.

The Coyotes have lost four of five after falling 5-3 to Anaheim on Saturday as they concluded a six-game homestand.

"We're not a very cohesive group right now," coach Dave Tippett said. "When you chase games all the time you look like an out-of-sort group, and that's where we are."

Martin Hanzal has been a bright spot of late, scoring five goals with five assists in his last 11 games, getting one of each Saturday. The center's 13 goals are three shy of his career high set in 2010-11, but he has just one assist in two games against the Jets.

Shane Doan has 10 points in 11 games against the Jets/Thrashers franchise, but he was held without a point in the latest matchup. He spent his rookie season with the first iteration of the Jets in 1995-96 after being drafted seventh overall.

What to Read Next