Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Scheifele's fate anyone's guess

Eligible to play one more game before decision; Jets being tight-lipped

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Among the things that Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel got to watch Friday night in Tampa -- after the game was long gone -- was Mark Scheifele.

The coach chose to end the 19-year-old's relegation to the press box at four straight games and inserted him against the Lightning.

It was Scheifele's fourth game of the season. He may play one more, then the Jets will have to decide to keep him and see the first year of his contract take full effect, or send him back to the Ontario Hockey League's Barrie Colts.

Many teams have made decisions on their young, junior-eligible players.

Montreal is keeping Alex Galchenyuk, for example. Minnesota sent Matt Dumba back to Red Deer.

The Jets? They have said very little about Scheifele's future.

The first of his four straight healthy scratches occurred last Friday against Pittsburgh and Scheifele confessed this week to the Free Press that he was stressed and nervous.

The plan clearly isn't being shared with him, either.

Scheifele, then, was a player to watch in Friday's one-sided loss to the Lightning.

Because of all the penalty problems in the first period, he played only 2:55 and got on the ice four times.

The game was gone after that, so his ice time increased and was 16:47 by the end, the most by far he's played in any game this season.

Scheifele was an even plus-minus, and also the Jets' best faceoff man, with eight wins out of 12, for whatever that's worth in an outing that was more than half garbage time.

There was the matter of the lost coverage of Teddy Purcell for a second-period goal.

But far more interesting was that for the third period, Noel juggled combinations again and placed Scheifele at centre between Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little.

And he didn't seem to mind what he saw.

"With Mark, he sat out for a fair bit and I wanted to get more speed in the lineup... and I thought he was good on the right side and at centre. He played with some real emotion," the coach said. "I thought he did well. It's just part of the process of evaluating his situation."

That last sentence has been the party line since training camp opened on Jan. 13.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 3, 2013 B2

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