THERE’S an unfinished feel to MTS Centre these days, where ‘Wet Paint’ signs and the sounds of construction are seen and heard in every nook and cranny of the joint.

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Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec on the bench Monday at MTS Centre on the eve of Winnipeg’s return to the bigs.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec on the bench Monday at MTS Centre on the eve of Winnipeg’s return to the bigs.

THERE’S an unfinished feel to MTS Centre these days, where ‘Wet Paint’ signs and the sounds of construction are seen and heard in every nook and cranny of the joint.

 A Manitoba Moose cut-out wall hanging was spotted propped up against one door before being whisked away while an illuminated sign for the Winnipeg Jets’ store was still grounded on the mezzanine level.

 The hockey team is far from fully recognizable yet, too, what with just three full days of training camp now completed. But it will all start to come together one way or another for tonight’s split-squad pre-season games against the Columbus Blue Jackets in downtown Winnipeg and Ohio.

 After all, that’s what dress rehearsals are for, right?

 "It’s going to be fun to get everyone in the building and finally start playing some games," said Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd. "We’ve had a couple of scrimmages, but it’s a little different when you’re scrimmaging against your own guys. It’ll be nice to get going as a team.

 "I’m assuming it’s going to be crazy in here. It’s the fans’ first opportunity to show what they bring to the table and the excitement they have for this team.

 "Looking at those two games, I’d rather be playing here than in Columbus. It’s a little more excitement for an exhibition game."

 Ladd heads the group that will take to the ice in Winnipeg, a lineup that also includes Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian, Ondrej Pavelec, Nik Antropov, Mark Stuart, Alex Burmistrov and first-round draft pick Mark Scheifele.

 The squad that left Monday afternoon after practice for Columbus features Evander Kane, Ron Hainsey, Tanner Glass, Blake Wheeler, Chris Mason, Jim Slater, Tim Stapleton and Chris Thorburn.

 "There’s mixed feelings on that," said Wheeler about pulling on a Jets’ jersey for the first time in Ohio, not Winnipeg. "It’s nice to get a little warm-up, a little tune-up before I get in front of the crowd here, but I think everyone’s just excited in general to get out there and play that first game and put the jersey on for the first time.

 "It would have been nice to kick off the first game here at the MTS, but October ninth is when it really matters so we’ll be jacked up for that one."

 Added Glass, also headed to Columbus, with a grin: "It doesn’t really matter as long as I’m in the lineup on opening night."

 Pavelec will start the game here in Winnipeg in goal and, if all goes according to plan, play the first two periods before being replaced by David Aebischer. Chris Mason will start in Columbus and give way to Peter Mannino.

The lineup here in Winnipeg includes four Manitobans — Troy Bodie of Portage, Winnipeggers Jason Gregoire and Kevin Clark and Shayne Wiebe of Brandon — and 11 players who suited up for at least one game in Atlanta: Ladd, Bogosian, Stuart, Burmistrov, Pavelec, Byfuglien and Antropov as well as Patrice Cormier, Paul Postma, Arturs Kulda and Ben Maxwell.

 "It’s going to be very special," said Bodie. "I’ve got some family and friends coming and playing in this barn here in Winnipeg is going to be great. I kept (the ticket requests) to a minimum. I told everybody I’d just get a couple for mom and dad and my brother and I’ve got to worry about myself. Not to be too selfish, but I’ve got to prepare."

 Head coach Claude Noel said it’s far too early to read into line combinations or power-play/penaltykill units. That’s for later on in the preseason. Right now it’s more about still putting faces to names and getting a feel for who can do what.

 "It’s really hard right now to get to know them at all," Noel said. "I can see them on the ice and get a good handle for their games on the ice.

 There’s very little time for conversation.

 I can barely have a conversation with Andrew Ladd, for example. It’s been difficult, but this will sort itself out."

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