When Adam Lowry stepped off the MTS Centre ice on Sunday, it was so clear he was ready, finally given the green light to get his shot under the spotlight.
Yeah, Lowry will get into the game against the Oilers, he confirmed, and there was a flash of hunger the 6-5 centre's typically measured tone didn't completely cover.
'I know it's been a little anxious trying to get back into the lineup, but I'm excited for that'
"I'm looking forward to that opportunity," he said, still in his skates and towering over the media gathered around. "I know it's been a little anxious trying to get back into the lineup, but I'm excited for that."
This will be Lowry's first game action since the prospects tournament in Penticton. He was hoping for more, but near the end of the first scrimmage of training camp he crashed hard into the boards. It wasn't a serious injury, Lowry explained later, just a bad tweak: He banged his head and got some whiplash. So, while the other prospects battled through camp, Lowry skated with fellow wounded soldier Chris Thorburn, who offered some words of wisdom.
"He just said, 'Don't worry about it too much, don't get too anxious, don't try to get out there before you're ready,' " Lowry said. " 'You're young, you still got your whole career in front of you. You don't want to push it.' "
Still, it was a tough break for a 20-year-old prospect eager to impress, for an organization that's pleased as punch to have him in the mix, and for fans eager to see the reigning WHL player of the year at the dawn of his pro career.
"It was tough," Lowry agreed. "I was looking forward to coming into camp and to show that I've continued to improve. It was hard watching. It was good to be cautious, but I'm feeling 100 per cent now."
For Lowry, there is this much security, at least: He knows the Jets have him pencilled into their plans. They signed him to an entry-level contract last spring, and he figured in nine games for the St. John's IceCaps, where head coach Keith McCambridge glowed about his rookie statement. Hey, it's not every day a team gets an opportunity to bring up an oak-tree centre who has hands, hockey smarts and the focus of a natural leader.
So now a chance to show that on NHL ice.
"I've been fortunate here. They've given me a tremendous opportunity," Lowry said. "I'm just looking forward to seeing what I can do tomorrow... As the pre-season games have gone along, the pace has picked up. The NHL players are shaking the rust off, and I expect the game tomorrow night to be even higher-paced. The time and space from the prospects tournament to now is that much smaller."
Tonight, though, Jets head coach Claude Noel doesn't want Lowry to wear the pressure too heavy around his neck, especially not after skating on the outside for so much of camp. Lowry looks like a "reliable player," Noel said, but some things can't be rushed.
"We'll have to be patient," Noel added. "I just don't want him to do too much. I just want him to be reliable. This will be a game that will be on the road, probably a high-speed game. Can he think at that pace? Those are the things I'll be looking at."
Blake Wheeler didn't practise on Sunday and is day-to-day with some banged-up body part or another. He wasn't the only one feeling the pain after Saturday night's more physical game in Minnesota, Noel said, so the Jets kept practice short. "This is what you get this time in camp; you get guys who are fatigued a little bit," Noel said. "We're trying to keep guys healthy right now... we have a day off coming soon, so that'll be good."