Jets picture getting clearer

Players come into focus as pre-season continues

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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- There's a certain "Survivor" feel to the National Hockey League pre-season, particularly for teams such as the Winnipeg Jets, that are desperate to find answers to some critical questions.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/09/2014 (3053 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — There’s a certain “Survivor” feel to the National Hockey League pre-season, particularly for teams such as the Winnipeg Jets, that are desperate to find answers to some critical questions.

Take 50 players, dump them on an island and see who emerges as leaders, as winners, as guys a team can be built around and win with consistently.

So, while the Jets dropped their second straight exhibition tilt Saturday night in an occasionally sloppy, sometimes entertaining 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild, some important storylines are emerging.

CP Ann Heisenfelt / the associated press Minnesota Wild defenceman Marco Scandella (left) and Winnipeg Jets right-winger Blake Wheeler pursue the puck as linesman Jay Sharrers bails out Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.

 

The kids — Nik Ehlers, Nic Petan and Adam Lowry were in the lineup Saturday — continue to be impressive and look more and more comfy with every shift.

Evander Kane on the left side of centre Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler has some jaw-dropping potential, as does Dustin Byfuglien possibly patrolling the wing with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little.

And then, of course, there is this: Every time the red light flashes behind Ondrej Pavelec it becomes a referendum on his future to every citizen in Jetville. Some numbers to further fuel the debate: The big Czech stopped 20 of 24 shots, but the Wild were 3-of-4 on the power play and also got a penalty-shot marker from Erik Haula.

 

THE PROSPECT REPORT

— Ehlers, the first-round pick, worked on the right wing alongside Ladd and Little and, once again, teased with snippets of his skill set. His speed set up the Jets first goal as he skated around the Wild before deftly feeding Toby Enstrom with a pass that led to Petan’s bad-angle marker past Nik Backstrom.

Occasionally Ehlers is guilty of over-handling the puck — no doubt he didn’t get into trouble making those plays with the Halifax Mooseheads — but it’s hard not to be impressed with his talent and his vision.

“There’s some small things that I do a little bit better now,” said Ehlers, who finished with three shots and three more shot attempts.

“But obviously, it’s going to take much longer to really get comfortable with everything. I’ve got time. I’m still young. I’m just going to take it from here and just keep working at it.”

— Petan centred a line featuring Carl Klingberg and Matt Halischuk, scored his first of the pre-season and saw almost three minutes of ice time on the power play. He, too, had moments where he was guilty of trying to be cute, but he’s a crafty player.

“With each game here, I feel more comfortable with my play,” said Petan. “That’s the main goal here, for the younger guys, to make it a hard decision for them to send me back.”

— Adam Lowry drew praise from Paul Maurice for a lot of the little things he does that don’t always show up on the scoresheet, while playing left wing with Wheeler and Scheifele.

 

WELCOME, MATT

Matt Halischuk’s game isn’t complicated, but it can be effective. The 26-year-old veteran with 203 NHL games under his belt scored his second goal of the pre-season when his attempted pass to Petan deflected off a Wild defender past Niklas Backstrom for the Jets’ second goal, sandwiched between markers from Petan and Grant Clitsome.

And don’t think the boss hasn’t noticed.

“Right from camp it’s clear he’s just a great, great pro,” said Maurice. “He came to camp in great shape. He’s able to play at a real high level. Both goals that he’s scored, it’s the same kind of concept: Get it to the net as quick as you can off your stick. That’s a valuable thing, to have a player that thinks like that when you’re trying to generate some offence away from your top two lines.”

This camp has been but a snapshot of Halischuk’s entire career, where he has consistently battled just to keep a spot in the lineup. And that experience might just be helping him now.

“It’s a good thing,” said Halischuk. “It keeps you on your toes and you’ve got to compete for everything that you get. I’m just trying to take it game by game and bring enough to make the team.

“Just going through it before, it’s a lot easier mentally to prepare for it. The only thing I can control is how I play, be a good teammate and play hard. I try to get better every day and the decisions take care of themselves.”

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

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