MONTREAL -- For some guys, like wide receiver Chris Matthews or backup quarterback Justin Goltz, it's one of a diminishing number of opportunities to try and make the team.
For other guys, like centre Chris Kowalczuk, it's an opportunity to reward his team's faith in him by proving he really is ready to make the jump to starter.
For Paul LaPolice, head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, tonight's first pre-season game against the Montreal Alouettes is an opportunity to watch it all unfold and begin to make some hard decisions about who stays and who goes from an unwieldy 70-plus roster that will have to be trimmed to 46 when the regular season starts in a couple of weeks.
"I want them to compete at a high level, be excited, and when you get an opportunity to make a play, make a play," LaPolice told reporters after the team landed Wednesday afternoon in Montreal. "If they want to be somebody who's going to stay with us, you've got to start standing out from everybody else."
With many veteran Bomber starters staying back in Winnipeg, tonight will be LaPolice's first opportunity to see many of his rookies in game action while also getting his first look at a revamped Montreal squad that has new offensive and defensive co-ordinators this season.
Every year, it seems the path to an East Division title goes through Montreal, and any chance to get a close look at a team sure to be a rival is valuable.
The problem is that what LaPolice sees in Montreal tonight will almost certainly, as with Winnipeg, not be what he gets in the regular season.
"You might see some of their base stuff," LaPolice said of the new Montreal defence, "but certainly I don't think a lot of teams put a lot of value in that first pre-season game of anybody's."
Among the rookies looking to stand out this evening will be Matthews, who seems to have mixed feelings so far about a camp in which he has a lot of the first-team reps at the wideout position vacated in the off-season when Greg Carr signed with Edmonton.
"I feel like I've been doing a good job, but I feel like I can do better too," said Matthews, an imposing 6-foot-5, 220-pound catcher out of Kentucky. "I don't know (if he can win a job today). I'm just going to work as hard as I can and play as hard as I can."
Goltz will also on the bubble tonight. He had success in the very limited game action he saw in 2011, but is fourth on the depth chart at QB behind starter Buck Pierce and backups Joey Elliott and Alex Brink.
LaPolice said Brink will start tonight and will be relieved by Elliott. Goltz will get into the game after that and knows he needs to make the most of his opportunity if he's going to beat out Brink or Elliott for a spot on the roster as a Pierce backup.
"It's a chance for me to continue to build on a resumé. I'm a young player and I feel like I've done well in this league with the chances that I've had," said Goltz, who got into a game in Toronto last September after Pierce and Brink got hurt and promptly threw an 18-yard touchdown strike to Clarence Denmark.
"Whatever comes, comes. But (tonight) is the one small chance that I have control over, and I'm going to go make the most of it."
On the other end of the spectrum is Kowalczuk, who will compete this evening for a starter's job and not just a roster spot.
Kowalczuk has had the majority of first-team reps so far at the centre position vacated in the off-season by the retirement of Obby Khan, but the Bombers have also given reps to Justin Sorenson and both men are expected to see action in Montreal.
"It's a big day," Kowalczuk said, "but I'd say I'm more excited about it than nervous."
Elliott back under centre
Winnipeg Blue Bombers backup QB Joey Elliott will return to action tonight for the first time since he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 3 last season against the Calgary Stampeders.
A standout performance by Elliott would go a long way towards him reclaiming the No. 2 backup job from Alex Brink.
Rookie head coaches debut
Half the head coaches in the CFL this season are rookies and all made their debut Wednesday night in the first two games of the 2012 CFL pre-season. B.C.'s Mike Benevides went head to head with Saskatchewan's Corey Chamblin in Vancouver, while Toronto's Scott Milanovich was in Hamilton to show off his revamped Argos club against the Ticats and their new boss, George Cortez.