It might be the last chance to impress for some and the start of a long relationship for others.
The Winnipeg Jets take to the ice tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes at MTS Centre in their second-last preseason game before the lid lifts on the regular campaign on Oct. 9th.
And for the 36 players vying for roughly 25-26 roster spots, included those on the injured list, time is now of the essence.
"I’ve got to elevate my game in a lot of ways," began Winnipegger Jason Gregoire, one of the Jets’ players on the bubble. "Energy-wise I’ve got to fly around out there. Hockey happens so fast that if you’re not instinctive, you’re in trouble. I’ve just got to pick it up a little bit, execute a couple more plays and then if I can chip in offensively, that’d be awesome."
Gregoire will get every opportunity to shine, as he has been moved to a line centred by rookie sensation Mark Scheifele and featuring Evander Kane on the left wing and will play on the right side.
Scheifele, meanwhile, continues to draw a media crowd daily as his story -- can the 18-year-old first-round pick with just one year of junior under his belt make the team? – continues to play out with Jets’ nation watching.
Asked if he was getting used to all the attention, Scheifele grinned -- he is not only tied for the NHL preseason scoring lead with six, but unofficially leads the league in ear-to-ear smiles – and said:
"Maybe a little bit now. It’s still fun. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself and just keep playing my game and take it a day at a time.
"I’m feeling really good right now. We had a day off yesterday so I had a little time to rejuvenate. I haven’t had any bumps or bruises, knock on wood. It’s definitely been a big step -- the Ottawa game was a bit bigger than the Nashville game, Nashville was bigger than Columbus (his debut here in Winnipeg). I try to adapt pretty quick and get into the game as quick as I can."
Chris Mason is scheduled to start the game in goal for the Jets and play the entire contest. Brian Boucher will tend the net for the Canes and their lineup features NHL stars like Jeff Skinner and Tomas Kaberle, although Eric Staal will not be in action.