Regular season is nearly here for Jets

- September 30th, 2013

EDMONTON — The three-day retreat to Banff is over and the Winnipeg Jets arrived in Edmonton Monday evening for Tuesday’s opener against the Oilers.

Nobody knows for sure if the time in the resort town will help the Jets in the pre-season, but there’s no doubt the team is eager to get the regular season going.

The Jets will play eight of their first 10 games at home, so there’s a golden opportunity for them to try and get off to a good start, if they can find a way to bring back the home-ice magic that was prevalent during the first season back in the NHL. Sports editor Ted Wyman touches on this subject in his column online at www.winnipegsun.com and in Tuesday’s print edition.

Our paper’s 48-page NHL/Winnipeg Jets preview was out today. What did you think?

Was a lot of work, but the feedback has been pretty good so far.

The Jets held their second and final practice at Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre on Monday and it was another crisp one, with plenty of battle drills and it wrapped up with some special-teams work.

“The intensity was a lot better, we were pushing each other to get us ready for tomorrow,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd, who was asked what his favourite part of opening night was. “It’s just the excitement of getting back into playing meaningful games. It’s a long summer and going through pre-season, this is kind of what you’ve been waiting for for three or four months. To have it finally here and to be excited about playing hockey again and going out there and competing, it’s always fun to play your first game.”

For those concerned the Jets could be shaken by a 1-4-3 record during the pre-season, fear no more.

“We definitely wanted to play better hockey,” said Ladd. “We got here (to Banff) and we weren’t happy with the way things had gone and there was a realization in the room that it wasn’t good enough and that’s not the team we need to be each and every night. That can be a good thing.”

Jets head coach Claude Noel was happy about what the team was able to accomplish during the past few days. You can tell he can’t wait to get this season going.

“Now we’ve just got to go out and play the game and look for a win in Edmonton,” said Noel. “For me, I’m excited. The players will be excited to get playing, playing for the real deal. The big thing for us that we’ll be looking for is to do the necessary things that we’ve worked on.”

As for my daily coverage, I spoke with rookie D Jacob Trouba about his first NHL training camp and making his NHL debut.

Yes, I’ve written a lot of words on the 2012 first rounder, since the development camp in July until now, but you can’t ignore the fact Trouba came a long way after a tough pre-season opener against the Washington Capitals.

When I spoke with Trouba the next day, he admitted the big Olympic sheet gave him some issues and that he was doing too much thinking.

Those struggles were a bit humbling, but Trouba didn’t shy run and hide. He said he was going to be better and he was, immediately and he’s been working hard to continue that progression.

Though probably tired of talking about the first of his six pre-season games, Trouba revisited the subject this afternoon.

“It worked and it definitely helped me,” said Trouba. “It was a little over-thinking in the first game. Trying to figure out too much, not just going out there and playing hockey. The last couple games, I just tried to not get caught up into thinking about what I was going to do and rely on my instincts, do what I’ve been doing.”

Trouba, 19, nailed down a roster spot and he’ll start on the second pairing with Zach Bogosian, an impressive feat since some fans wanted him demoted after his debut.

Aside from my piece on Trouba, who is switching to No. 8 (his number since the fifth grade), I did a sidebar on the Jets getting down to their 23-man roster.

If you missed it earlier, D Zach Redmond and F Patrice Cormier were demoted and Grant Clitsome (lower-body) was placed on the seven-day injured list but it was retroactive since Clitsome might be available to suit up in Friday’s home opener against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Clitsome injury allowed D Adam Pardy (who cleared waivers along with Cormier and was targeted to be sent to St. John’s) to remain on the active roster, at least for now.

I’ve said before that I believe Redmond is probably No.  7 on the depth chart right now (ahead of Paul Postma) but since he’s on a two-way contract and doesn’t require waivers, sending him down was the easier move. Plus, there will be benefits from having Redmond get back in the swing of things by playing big minutes in all situations. I’ll be surprised if Redmond isn’t on the Jets roster before October is through.

My main column to advance the game and the season revolved around the subject of accountability, which was a topic of conversation throughout the weekend and included some strong words about how the Jets laid out the way they need to play and what they have to do to become a playoff team.

“It should. I believe that we have. It starts tomorrow and we’ll see if we’ve bought into it,” said Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, who made himself available.

Byfuglien said he believed the Jets have the potential to do special things, but didn’t shed much light on his personal goals.

“I’m just trying to be myself, be better than what I’ve done in the past. Nothing big, just little things,” said Byfuglien.

The Sun also has our regular game-day page that features stats and the projected lineups for both clubs (will be posted on blog following Tuesday’s morning skate).

The Oilers have a new head coach in former Jets and Manitoba Moose defenceman Dallas Eakins and the expectation that the team should compete for a playoff spot this year after several tough seasons.

But the Oilers will be without two of their top centre’s on Tuesday, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder) and Sam Gagner (jaw) sidelined.

Can the Jets take advantage?

It won’t be long until you find out. The regular season is finally here.

What has you excited and what are your concerns?

I’ve picked the Jets to finish fourth of seven teams in the Central Division.

Where do you have them wrapping up this season and why?

Categories: Hockey

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