December 11, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
The gang is almost all back together and the Winnipeg Jets are wasting little time getting ready for the 2013 National Hockey League season.
The Jets took to the freshly-painted MTS Centre for the first time this year Friday afternoon and had almost a full complement of players with just Alex Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov, both of whom are returning from the KHL, along with Kyle Wellwood and Evander Kane as the only players yet to report.
Jets head coach Claude Noel and his staff cannot be on the ice with the team until the new collective bargaining agreement is in place and so J.P. Vigier -- the former NHLer who has been training the crew at MTS Iceplex during the lockout – continued to run practices. The 19 players in attendance put in a full workout before settling into their old haunt in the Jet dressing room.
That crew of players included defencemen Paul Postma and Zach Redmond and forwards Spencer Machacek and Maxime Macenauer, all of whom have been called-up from the St. John’s IceCaps of the AHL. Also among the new arrivals was Blake Wheeler, who led the team in scoring last year.
Asked if he felt that playing in Europe – Wheeler played in 15 games for the Munich Red Bulls of the German league – would give him any advantage, he grinned and said:
"Today it didn’t… the jet lag has kinda got a hold of me right now. But personally speaking I can’t really get into game shape without playing games. That’s speaking only for myself. The older guys might be able to get themselves into the shape they need to get into. But for me I need to be in the game, get everything moving in the right direction and get my timing down."
The Jets will continue to practise at MTS Centre Friday and Saturday in advance of the opening of main camp on Sunday, following the NHL Players’ Association ratification of the new CBA. The Jets will then just have a few days to prepare for their opener, also at MTS Centre, on Saturday, Jan. 19th vs. the Ottawa Senators.
"I can’t wait," Wheeler said. "It was a big load off of all of our shoulders. All of us are just chomping at the bit to get back out here. Everyone felt (the lockout) had gone on too long and it had gotten to be a little bit of a joke, almost. We were just really happy to get back on the ice and do what we love to do."