December 7, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
NEW YORK -- Anthony Peluso had a good day on Sunday. And Monday was shaping up to be a dandy, too.
"This is my first time in New York so this is a pretty overwhelming experience," said the Winnipeg Jets winger. "I'm going to go sit in a coffee shop around 5 o'clock and do a little people watching. I want to see how hectic it gets at rush hour."
Yes, sometimes it's easy to fixate on the minutiae that comes with following a National Hockey League team -- things like penalty-kill and power-play woes, shrinking save percentages and all the angst over finding the right line combinations -- and lose sense of the big picture.
And then a session like Monday's optional Jets practice at Madison Square Garden comes along to remind you what really matters to so many of the players who, by circumstances, are forced to live in the moment.
There was Peluso, scooped up off waivers by the Jets last month, having an absolute blast on the ice with seven other skaters along with goaltenders Eddie Pasquale and Al Montoya and assistant coaches Charlie Huddy, Perry Pearn and Pascal Vincent.
Ditto for James Wright, another waiver-wire castoff who has found new life with the Jets, who was sporting a perma-grin on Monday.
Now, for some -- vets like Andrew Ladd, who played in his 500th game last week or Ron Hainsey, who has 562 and counting under his belt -- a trip to the Big Apple might not be a big deal any more. And an optional practice after back-to-back games and a stretch of three games in four days? Easy to blow that off with no regrets.
But for a pair of guys who scratched and clawed to get to the bigs, and will have to scratch and claw to stay here, spending a few hours at "The World's Most Famous Arena" before an afternoon off in the City That Never Sleeps... well, hell, that's heaven.
"This is pretty cool," said Wright who, for the record, has played here before as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. "I mean, just the mystique around it, the MSG name... it's pretty cool."
Take a peek at the Jets' scoring stats and you'll have to drag your finger down the list a long way before you come to the names Wright and Peluso. Neither has scored a goal. Wright has one assist. And Peluso's six minutes and 48 seconds of ice time through two games would scream out "spare part" to anyone just studying the black and white of the statistics.
And yet both men are gaining the trust of Claude Noel and his coaching staff. Wright, in fact, saw some time on the team's third line Sunday in New Jersey, plays on the penalty kill and has proven to be trustworthy defensively. Peluso, for his part, had his reputation as one of the toughest hombres in the American Hockey League tested early against the Devils by Krys Barch.
"First shift I got asked to go," Peluso explained. "He just said, 'Hey, you wanna go?' And I said, 'Sure... might as well.' So, I mean, I'm not going to ever say no. I'm always a gamer.
"It happens in games. I just wanted to spark the boys. I'm pretty sure everybody has been waiting for it and so it was nice to get the first one under my belt. You do it to get the energy in the game. I know it was the third game in four nights for the guys and I just wanted to pump them up."
The Jets are getting some solid work from their waiver-wire boys -- Grant Clitsome, scooped up last year after being cast adrift by Columbus and Antti Miettinen, grabbed in December of 2011, have had their moments. Miettinen's 2013 debut might have lasted just 17 seconds Sunday before he took a shot in a very uncomfortable spot, but he was decent at the end of the 2011-12 season.
Maybe it's that experience -- getting kicked to the curb by one squad before being reborn with another -- that changes a player and gives him a new take on things. What's the old line about enjoying the little things, because one day you'll look back and realize they were big things?
"Getting traded or put on waivers... that's always tough," said Wright. "And when you play your old team again you always want to show your stuff. But you've just got to think that team that gets you really wanted you. That's how I look at it. All you are asking for is a chance."
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2013 D3