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Scheifele no slouch in season debut

Prize rookies bonding on, off ice with Jets

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On the morning of the first game of his first season where he's certainly not going back to junior, Mark Scheifele said he was feeling better than he's ever felt as a hockey player.

Players generally say a lot of things that sound good. In this case, actions matched the words, and therein lies a positive sign for the Winnipeg Jets if it continues.

Scheifele, who for a lack of a better description in the pre-season spent quite a bit of time trying to do a better job of paying attention to details, was easily able to skate with the up-tempo pace of Tuesday night's season opener in Edmonton.

He and his linemates Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi were assets to the team for most of the night.

Early in the first period, after the Jets had already been scored upon, it was Scheifele who announced the Jets' arrival to participate in this game.

Rushing up the ice on the power play, he went down the left side and snapped a shot home for the 1-1 goal.

There was some local grousing in Rexall Place that it was badly misplayed by Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk. What television didn't show you was how much Scheifele was responsible for this goal.

The 20-year-old centre put on a burst of speed as he hit the attacking zone, causing the Edmonton defence to go flat-footed for an instant. In that space of time, Scheifele made himself significantly more threatening and as he eyed the net, he showed both a quick release and enviable hand/eye co-ordination to find a hole behind Dubnyk high in the top of the net that wasn't very large.

As the night played out, it became rookie bookends for the Jets. Defenceman Jacob Trouba did a lot of heavy lifting, including scoring the game-tying goal inside the final 10 minutes in Winnipeg's eventual 5-4 victory.

Trouba played a game-high 25:02. Scheifele played 17:58, the highest number of his short NHL career.

The win was the most important thing for both players.

"I think it just showed a lot of character, what kind of guys we have in the room and what kind of guys we have on this team," Scheifele said, noting the Jets rallied from down 4-2 at the game's midway point. "Obviously we don't want to get down like that but it shows we can come back in the game and push back."

They were in separate corners of the team's dressing room in Edmonton but the post-game props were in the air between the rookies.

"He's an unbelievable player," Scheifele said of Trouba. "For him to get his first goal in his first game, I'm very proud of him. We're roomies on the road and we've basically spent the last month and a bit together, side by side. It's good to see him get that first goal and I think only bigger and better things are going to come for him."

That Scheifele was there taking questions was also a good sign, or maybe just an indication that he has a hard head.

In the second period, he was taken hard into the boards in the offensive corner by Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid. The check from behind caused Scheifele's head to hit the boards with force and for good measure Smid jammed it back onto the wall after it bounced off.

In other leagues, this kind of dangerous play would merit serious examination -- see how busy the OHL has been this week for hits to the head and checks from behind -- but with the covering noise of the George Parros/fighting incident earlier in the evening, the department of player safety is unlikely to act further.

Scheifele, by the way, said he was fine, that there was no damage. For Jets fans, that's good, because he'll need all his wits about him. As is almost always the case, a couple of tough opponents are coming right up, starting Friday against the L.A. Kings, and consistency is never judged by one evening.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2013 0

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Updated on Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 6:51 AM CDT: Adds video

6:54 AM: Adds second video

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