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Peluso comes prepared

New Jets arrival knows his main role is to protect his teammates

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There's no telling if the move to grab right-winger Anthony Peluso off waivers from the St. Louis Blues will work out for the Winnipeg Jets.

In this case, though, nobody will be able to claim it failed because the dog ate their homework.

In the case of the rugged 23-year-old from the Toronto area, a sixth-round pick of the Blues in 2007, things will not be left to chance if a spot in the lineup presents itself with the Jets.

Peluso knows his role and his style very well.

"I'm going to be looking after everyone on my team (and their) backs. That's my role and I'm more than happy to do it," he said on his first day with his new team -- and he promised to make himself familiar with who the tough customers are from the opposition.

"There's always guys out there on every team," he said. "I don't like going in there blinded, either. I'll do my research about everybody and just take it one shift at a time from that point."

For their part, it seems the Jets are caught up with their homework, too.

As far as the waiver claim goes, Peluso has had some hints.

"I've been told they've been watching me for a while," he said. "There were a couple of rumblings in there I was going to get picked up by somebody. To come to Winnipeg, a Canadian team, I'm pretty happy."

The connections with the current team are unusually few, though not that surprising given Peluso has yet to play an NHL regular-season game.

"I know (Bryan) Little, we have the same agent. (Zach) Bogosian, we've worked out with the same guy," said the fourth-year pro.

"People in the hockey world, well, it's a small world I'm sure through the four years I've played pro, somebody from this organization has seen me."

If you sleuth the homework and connections a little further, you'll find that Peluso played three of his junior seasons in the OHL under former Jets 1.0 forward turned coach Mike Stapleton in both Erie and Sault Ste. Marie.

Peluso was in Jets colours for the first time Thursday but it was not his first time in the MTS Centre.

With the AHL's Peoria Rivermen, he played against the Manitoba Moose in the arena.

"From what I've heard, it's just been ridiculously loud from what it used to be when the Moose were here, which was a couple of years ago," he said.

"I just remember it vaguely."

For a first day in a new situation, Peluso drew a decent review from Jets head coach Claude Noel.

"Sniper! Shootout sniper," Noel chirped with the question after Thursday's practice. "I think he was really nervous. You could tell. He didn't really know any players on our team. He got in late, probably didn't sleep. I think he was excited but a deer in the headlights. We tried to make it just simple.

"He scored a nice goal in the three-on-three down low there. It was good. I liked him. He was OK just for a first day, trying to get comfortable. I thought he was OK.

"He skates pretty good. Big guy."

Peluso did not skate on what would be any of the team's four lines Thursday and Noel wouldn't say if he'd be in the lineup for Saturday's season-opener here, a matinee against the Ottawa Senators.

"That won't be determined today," Noel said. "Maybe by tomorrow's practice we'll have a little bit of an idea of what we're going to do here."

Noel should expect the big winger to be ready.

Peluso been playing regularly in the AHL (36 games) for the Rivermen and is advancing as a player.

His numbers, though not his forte, have improved this season, as have his conditioning and readiness.

That's largely thanks to connecting with former NHLer-turned-fitness-trainer Gary Roberts last summer.

It's another correct choice in the homework.

"Gary Roberts is a phenomenal coach, a phenomenal life teacher," Peluso said. "He teaches you all these lessons. Just being with him gave me a different aspect about everything.

"Through eating habits, sleep habits, everything. He takes everything and breaks it down for you.

"It has (made) a big difference. If you look at my progression from two years ago to now, my speed with him just shot through the roof."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Clitsome's been there, done that

IT'S not so long ago that Winnipeg Jets defenceman Grant Clitsome was in exactly the same skates.

Claimed by the Jets from a U.S.-based team, first day in the Winnipeg dressing room, surrounded by new teammates and, for lack of a better description, the media circus.

"It was exciting," Clitsome said Thursday, watching Anthony Peluso do that drill. "Everything was moving so quickly. I think excitement is the biggest thing because you get to a new organization, fresh faces, everything's new, the dressing room, the facility, you try to remember as many names as you can. I think it's excitement and a little overwhelming."

And the dozens of reporters coming at you?

"It's great to see the interest in hockey in this market," he said. "I like it. It just means that people care. It's a good thing."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2013 C2

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