Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Scheifele making tenacious bid to stick with Jets

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THIS is Mark Scheifele's world these days: Every game -- heck, every second of every shift -- is essentially an evaluation.

And still, the decision on whether he sticks with the Winnipeg Jets or returns to the Ontario Hockey League's Barrie Colts is very likely out of his hands.

Officially, there are two games left in the open window the Jets have before making a decision to send him back to junior. Just for the record, it should be pointed out there is no rule prohibiting the team keeping him longer and then returning him, even if it burns up a year of his entry-level contract.

But as Scheifele completed practice Thursday working at one end of the ice while the majority of the roster was at the other during a special-teams session, the question is getting asked again:

Will he stay or will he go now?

"You have no idea how bad I want it," Scheifele said. "Every day I think about how bad I want to be here. That's the focus. Every day I go in with the mindset that I'm going to do whatever it takes to stay here.

"It's tough because if I make a little mistake I get down on myself. But I think about this is what I want and I have to go out and make it that much better on my next shift."

Scheifele has played primarily on the Jets' third and fourth lines and has been reliable defensively while registering five shots in three games. But the move to right wing hasn't necessarily been the biggest adjustment to the pro game, it's been trying to be productive in a different role with reduced minutes than he was used to as the Colts' star.

And that's all part of the maturation the Jets need to see as well.

"It's pretty tough, but that's what the coach feels the best way to help the team," said Scheifele. "Whatever (role) I'm in, I'm going to work my hardest to help the team.

"That's the focus. It's whatever the management thinks. It's part of the process and I just have to continue to word hard and continue to show what I can do with the time I'm given."

The Jets will soon have to make this call: What serves Scheifele and the team best -- sending him back to star in Barrie or keeping him in this current role learning how to be a pro?

"Mark's been good," said head coach Claude Noel. "This isn't a race to five games for us. It's a time we have to help him grow and help him feel comfortable. Our situation doesn't lend itself too great for him. If we had six or seven exhibition games that's more experience. (Now) you get none.

"Every day here is good. Again, to me it's not a race to five. I'm happy with how he's played."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2013 C2

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