The Winnipeg Jets hit the half-way point of their NHL pre-season schedule tonight when the Minnesota Wild come to town for a 7 p.m. start at the MTS Centre.
It’s Winnipeg’s fourth of eight exhibition games and its first against one of its new division rivals.
The Jets and Wild will play in St. Paul, Minn., on Saturday but tonight, it’s the Jets, 1-1-1 so far, who will ice the more experienced lineup.
The Wild are believed to be leaving front-line players Zach Parise and Ryan Suter at home today.
Winnipeg on the other hand is sending its top line of Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler into the game, as well as defenceman Zach Bogosian, Toby Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien, who will be paired with rookie Josh Morrissey for this one.
Also in tonight is right-winger Devin Setoguchi, who will be facing his old team. He came over via trade in July.
Setoguchi said this morning he didn’t think tonight’s affair will match up to the regular-season meetings, and expected little chirping about it.
"Oh, none" he smiled. "I don’t think there will be any. It’s pre-season. We’ll save that talk for when the season starts and that’s when you can go out there and it means something."
And when it means something, Setoguchi said, it should be a whole lot more interesting.
"We play all these teams a lot of times, four or five times, so at the end of the day you’ve got to beat those games to get in the playoffs," he said.
Left-winger Eric Tangradi left this morning’s skate at the MTS Centre and didn’t return.
"He won’t be in the game," coach Claude Noel said later. "He’s day-to-day. We just have to keep him out of the game. It’s just a training-camp fatigue."
Noel wouldn’t disclose who Tangradi’s replacement for tonight would be.
"It’s a, ‘Where’s Waldo?’" the coach chuckled.
Noel, who will put rookie Mark Scheifele between wingers James Wright and Matt Halischuk tonight, said progress is essential, no matter the opponent or the night in the pre-season.
"What we’re looking for is to get better from one game to the next," Noel said. "What we’re trying to do is play the right way and I find some of the guys doing some of the things we’ve done in the past that we’ve tried to change last year.
"Pre-season, players are anxious to get on the board, anxious to do some things. I want us, for example, to have shorter shifts and better line changes.
"And I want us to play more of a team game, be more to the identity we’d like to be, be hard to play against."