WINNIPEG, OCT. 29 -- Coach Bryan Murray roots for each upcoming opponent of the Washington Capitals to feel fat and sassy after posting a victory before facing his team.
When the Capitals face the Winnipeg Jets here Friday night, however, they will be facing, for the third straight time, a foe that is coming off a humiliating defeat.
Murray and brother Terry, the acting coach while Bryan continues to serve a three-game NHL suspension, watched from the Winnipeg Arena press box Wednesday night as the Jets were routed, 5-1, by the Detroit Red Wings.
Afterward, the temper tantrum of Winnipeg General Manager John Ferguson and the harsh words of Coach Dan Maloney virtually assured that the Jets will skate out loaded for the Capitals on Friday.
"That was the most embarrassing game we've played since I've been here," said Maloney, who is beginning his second season with Winnipeg. "We're not hungry enough. Why, I don't know, but we'll get to the bottom of it."
Following a tremendous 29-point jump in the standings last year, the Jets were being touted as a possible successor to the Edmonton Oilers and the bandwagon picked up momentum when Winnipeg won its first three games.
The Jets were the last NHL team to lose a game this season, finally tasting defeat on Oct. 18. Since then, losses have become a regular diet and four in the last five games have reduced the team to .500.
"I'm surprised by the turnabout, to say the least," Maloney said. "We have to go back and get to work. How any team can lace the skates up and play like that, I don't know. There's no excuse for it and we have to get out of it pretty quick."
Adding to the Jets' frustration is the fact that Edmonton has been stumbling. But Winnipeg has been unable to take advantage. Instead, the Jets find themselves only one point ahead of fourth-place Los Angeles in the Smythe Division.
Among the questions Maloney cannot answer is the collapse of a penalty-killing unit that led the NHL a year ago with an 83.6 percent rate of success. By yielding two power-play goals in three chances to Detroit, the Jets dropped to 69.2 percent, for 21st and last place.
Another obvious problem is a lack of firepower. The Jets have managed only 25 goals in eight games and their four regular centers have a mere six goals among them, half by Dale Hawerchuk.
Hawerchuk, who averaged 44 goals in six previous NHL seasons, has seen Winnipeg teams reach all manner of highs and lows. He figures this is one of the lows.
"We're just struggling," Hawerchuk said. "It's early and all teams go through something like this. I wish we could go a year without one, but it doesn't happen. This is a rough time for us and we have to turn things around in a hurry."
There is a feeling here that Ferguson, never known for his patience, will try to swing a deal for a proven goal scorer if things do not change quickly.
In last night's NHL games, Peter Stastny scored two goals and Michel Goulet had three assists to lead Quebec over Boston, 4-2; Russ Courtnall scored twice and Allen Bester got his fourth career NHL shutout as Toronto beat Pittsburgh, 4-0, and Brian's Sutter's second goal of the game gave St. Louis a 3-2 victory over Minnesota.
In other news, Montreal goaltender Patrick Roy was suspended for eight games for slashing Minnesota forward Warren Babe with his stick in an Oct. 19 game.