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Scheif wants to be 'reliable'

Rookie's future clear as mud after conversation with Noel

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There was a lot of talk about thinking Thursday and when it comes to Winnipeg Jets rookie centre Mark Scheifele, it can make you think somebody could easily be confused.

As the Jets, in particular head coach Claude Noel, consider where the 20-year-old first-round draft pick of 2011 will fit in, a microscope has been on the young centre's every move.

Thursday, ahead of the pre-season game versus Minnesota, Noel gave a rambling sort of answer on Scheifele, mentioning he wants Scheifele's focus on being a more complete player.

But Noel used the words "think about" when first answering.

As in: "If he's going to be here... what's his role going to be? That's something we'd like him to think about," Noel said.

For eons, we've been hearing how too much thinking is not a good thing.

Noel followed up by clearing that up, emphasizing efficiency.

"I'm not trying to get him to think too much," Noel said. "I'm very cognizant of that. If you look at Mark and how he's played as a junior and some of the things he's gone through there, it's a different level, he's a go-to guy, he's had long shifts.

"A lot of things can creep into your game when those things happen. You know you're going to be relied upon if you're down by two goals so you're conserving energy, playing in circles, there's no contact, you're not playing in straight lines.

"You're doing in all kinds of things... you've built and worked so long that if that body of work transcends to the NHL, it's going to put you on the wrong side of the line.

"I'm not trying to get him to think different, just get him to slowly play efficiently. He understands that. And he's a conscientious guy. He understands the game. He's given it some thought. He understands what we'd like to see, knowing that these things don't happen overnight."

Despite going pointless in 18 minutes 43 seconds of action, Scheifele didn't appear bogged down by any thinking in Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Wild.

He's making the little plays along the boards that keep a puck alive and he certainly seemed more than aware of his responsibilities.

In addition Thursday, he also had to deal with a dissatisfied coach's thinking. Specifically, Noel changed the lines during the game.

Scheifele began the night with Matt Halischuk and James Wright and before the second period was complete, he was with bigger lights, as in Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler.

No added stress there, Scheifele said.

"Not really," Scheifele said. "Obviously you deal with it at most levels when things aren't clicking; usually the coach will try to mix things up. We did generate some offence towards the end of the game but we weren't able to bury."

Late in the game, on a shift with Kane and Anthony Peluso, Scheifele's head was the target of a high elbow by Minnesota defenceman Kyle Medvec.

Both Peluso and Kane had something to say about it to Medvec, and Scheifele said later he's taken worse.

"Yeah, (it was high but) just something that happens in hockey," he said. "No damage done to me so we'll just keep going from there."

On the bigger picture, Scheifele seems to be aware of the requirements of transition to a full-time NHL game.

"Being patient in the defensive zone, not trying to always jump to the offensive zone like what I would have done in junior," he mentioned as one of his priorities at this training camp. "It's something I have to change but if you stick to it and work on it at practice, work on it during every game, you get better at it every day."

And earning his coach's trust.

"Every part of the game, you have to be reliable," Scheifele said. "For the most part, you have to be an honest player, play on both sides of the puck, play a 200-foot game."


No big deal

Thursday's opponent was of no special consequence to one Minnesotan on the Jets, right-winger Blake Wheeler.

He's played some games against the Wild, and will play a whole lot more in the future.

"I think our division in particular, there are a lot of really good teams and teams that will be fun to see how we stack up against," Wheeler said. "I think Minnesota falls in that category. Obviously I have a history of playing in that building (Xcel Energy Center), some really good memories. I always have a good time when I go back there."

Wheeler, who lives in the Twin Cities in the off-season, has gained some friends on that team.

"Towards the end of the summer when some of those guys are coming back we do the pro-camp skates, so I've gotten to know a few of them over the last couple of years," he said. "I enjoy going back there to play in that building but it's not something I circle on my calendar. I spend enough time in Minnesota."


A harder look

INTO his third pre-season game on Thursday night, Jets winger Anthony Peluso is clearly one player the Jets coaching staff and management want to observe.

As in, does he really have the game to be a full-time NHLer?

Pulled from the waiver wire early last season, Peluso had only five games before being hurt.

He knows this September, important people are watching.

"I think they just want me to keep developing my game, be hard on the forecheck, play hard and be reliable defensively and stick up for my teammates when I have to," Peluso said Thursday. "And be physical."

That part’s a given if he’s to be on the roster.

"I’m not going out there looking for fights, not going looking for anything," he said. "Just trying to play my game."

Of course, the odd goal, especially a winning goal like in Tuesday’s victory over Edmonton, doesn’t hurt the cause.

"They come when they come," Peluso smiled. "I’m trying my best to score every shift out there. But I’m not as gifted with scoring ability as some of our top-end guys like (Andrew) Ladd or (Blake) Wheeler and those guys."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 20, 2013 C4

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