BELLEVILLE, ONT. – Don’t tell Eric Tangradi, Mark Scheifele, James Wright, Nic Petan and the rest of the Winnipeg Jets tonight’s Kraft Hockeyville tilt is only a preseason game.
The club’s brass is all here for the first exhibition game of the 2013-14 season and every one of them will be evaluating who does what on the ice.
"I just want some energy," said Jets head coach Claude Noel after his club skated in front of about 1,000 fans at the Olympic-sized ice at Yardmen Arena. "There’s big ice out here so you’re going to have to skate and hopefully maintain puck control.
"We just want to play organized and try to get some things happening offensively. I want to see who can play, who can do some of the things we taught in the first couple of days in training camp like our forecheck and ‘D’ zone coverage. That will be challenging on this big ice because that will be quite a big difference for our guys."
The Jets, who flew into nearby CFB Trenton Friday night, will showcase their possible second line in Belleville with Mark Scheifele centering Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi. For what it’s worth, Jim Slater was centering Chris Thorburn and J.C. Lipon, Nic Petan was between Eric Tangradi and Scott Kosmachuk with the fourth trio featuring Austen Brassard, James Wright and John Albert at the morning skate.
Defencemen Jacob Trouba, Zach Bogosian and Zach Redmond are also here, along with 2013 first-round draft pick Josh Morrissey. Goaltender Eddie Pasquale will play the entire game in net.
The Belleville stop is particularly special for a couple of Jets as both Brassard and Tangradi played their junior hockey here.
"When I heard the news I was going to be playing here I was pretty excited, so I’m looking forward to tonight," said Brassard. "I Just want to work hard, do the little things right and hopefully it goes well."
"I know when I left here I left with a tear in my eye, thinking I would never see it again. When this game came up on the schedule I was definitely really excited and just hoping to be in the lineup. Now that I am, I’m looking forward to tonight. I think it will be a really special night."
"There’s tons of memories," added Tangradi. "My first thought is I don’t remember (the ice surface, which is Olympic sized) being this big. A lot of guys were shocked at just how big the ice surface was. The pre-game skate was an opportunity to take it all back in. But there’s a lot of guys on this team that are trying to fight for a job and there’s a couple spots up for grabs. When we leave the rink now there’s a lot of guys who are really dialed in and focused on just playing a good game and, of course, we’re here to try and win."
Tangradi went for dinner with his billets from his days with the Bulls — Rob and Irene Cooke — and then took his teammates out to a local spot where he used to hang out at as a junior.
"I like to consider myself a little bit Canadian," said Tangradi, who was born in Philadelphia. "I come back to this town and show all the Canadian boys around a Canadian city as an American… I thought that was kind of unique in a way."