Numbers were up at the MTS Iceplex on Tuesday, but only slightly, as Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd returned from a Christmas break in B.C. and Chris Thorburn made his first appearance since last season — bringing the grand total of players to six (including Olli Jokinen, Bryan Little, Jim Slater and Toby Enstrom).
That number is expected to rise throughout the week ahead. Ron Hainsey and Mark Stuart, among others, should be on the ice Wednesday and by Thursday, expect Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler to be part of the group.
Goalie Ondrej Pavelec could be back at the ice on Thursday as well and he’s scheduled to address the Winnipeg media on Wednesday morning for the first time since being convicted of driving under the influence in the Czech Republic. Pretty sure that’s going to draw quite a crowd.
Alex Burmistrov, who has been playing for the IceCaps during the lockout but was sidelined in December, is expected back in Winnipeg on Wednesday and should be ready to participate in training camp.
The flight from Newfoundland should also include Paul Postma, Zach Redmond, Derek Meech and Spencer Machacek, with a couple others possible.
Nik Antropov is scheduled to get back into Winnipeg on Thursday after suiting up in the KHL during the lockout. It should pretty much be a full house by the time Friday rolls around.
Wheeler, who was playing in Germany, arrived back home in Minnesota on Monday and we caught up to him by phone on Tuesday afternoon. He’s the guy I focused on for a main story and sidebar, while Paul Friesen handled a big-picture column and a sidebar on Chris Thorburn.
There were no Zach Bogosian sightings, though he told reporters on Monday after his first skate since August wrist surgery that he wouldn’t likely be on the ice every day as he eased back into things.
There’s still no official word on when training camp will open, though a source told us it was looking more and more like Sunday instead of Saturday.
The NHL board of governors will meet on Wednesday afternoon and will vote to ratify the prospective deal, while the NHLPA is planning to vote electronically on Thursday and Friday.
Once all of the paper work is taken care of, it’s safe to say that training camps will open.
The Jets haven’t made head coach or Claude Noel or GM Kevin Cheveldayoff available to the media yet (we believe they will in the relatively near future), so we still can’t tell you how big the training camp is going to be but it’s a safe bet there won’t be too many spare bodies kicking around either.
My best guess is 25-to-30.
Although we caught up to Ladd on Sunday after the new CBA was signed, he shared a few more thoughts about it when meeting with reporters in Winnipeg for the first time.
Here’s what he had to say on the matter:
“We have a deal in front of us we can be happy with. It took a lot of work from our end and a lot of patience. Now we can look forward to playing hockey.
“Fighting for the rights we got in the last CBA and still wanted to keep, like free agency and arbitration and stuff like that, is big. The pension will be a big benefit for generations to come. The cap number for next year is going to allow guys to keep a few more jobs, and so on. There’s a lot of things we can be happy with.
“That was the idea of trying to keep the contract length past five years, which is what they wanted. Having it at seven or eight with your own team, usually with term you can get the cap number down a little bit, which should hopefully help the middle class out.
“I don’t think there is any winner. We’ve only lost, in terms of the fan support we’ve had and the momentum we’ve gained the last couple of years. I don’t think anyone’s feeling like a winner at this point. Now it’s our job to get the game back to where it could be.”
Ladd also addressed the compressed schedule and the challenges that playing three and four games per week could present:
“Every other day is fine with me. Our coaching staff will find ways to make sure guys are getting rest and are prepared to play. The biggest hurdle is probably mentally, just because at times it can become monotonous, and you have to prepare every day, finding your routine to make sure you can play your top performance every night.
“It’s going to be tough for everyone to have a short training camp and get right into the year. But everyone’s in the same boat.
“It’s something we’re going to have to deal with as a team right from the start, and make sure out pace is high from the get-go. I’m sure Claude will bring lots of excitement in that regard and make sure we’re ready to go.
“Our start’s going to be key, for everyone in the league. Last year we didn’t get off to a great start, and that put us in a hole early and we were battling to get back to .500 right from the get-go. If we can get out to a good start, get a good feeling about ourself and get a good pace to our game, that’ll go a long way.”