NOT that he was all that short on motivation, but Winnipeg Jets right-winger Blake Wheeler said he found a moment of crystal-clear focus when his former team, the Boston Bruins, won the Stanley Cup last June.

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This article was published 8/9/2011 (3737 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

NOT that he was all that short on motivation, but Winnipeg Jets right-winger Blake Wheeler said he found a moment of crystal-clear focus when his former team, the Boston Bruins, won the Stanley Cup last June.

Wheeler and defenceman Mark Stuart were traded by the Bruins to the Atlanta Thrashers last February.

Asked Thursday at the MTS Iceplex who kicked more garbage cans in June, him or Stuart, Wheeler was direct.

"I think we kicked an equal amount," the 25-year-old from Robbinsdale, Minn., said. "That was tough. I think that was a lesson right there. You learn pretty quick, and we're both pretty young guys.

"I've only been in this league three years. To see the guys I played 200-some straight games with, to miss out on that opportunity, it hurts, it really does.

"There's no question about that but ultimately, it makes you want it even more, to be a part of something special like that. "That's something to build for here. We have to make that first step, be playing hockey in the spring, and then you never know from there."

Wheeler has only been here a short time -- training camp starts next Saturday -- but he's felt the buzz about the NHL's return.

"Being in the city, you can feel the energy and how excited everyone is," he said. "It's fun to be a part of."

Wheeler's first three NHL campaigns yielded goal production of 21, 18 and 18, and he finished last season on Atlanta's top line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little.

Trying to add to that offensive punch is Evander Kane, another forward who had his first pre-camp outing at the IcePlex on Thursday.

Kane talked Thursday about goals, that he wants to score them, and the pressure that will come in a hockey market.

The 20-year-old from Vancouver said he's going to "embrace" that attention.

"I like pressure," Kane said. "I'm a fan of it. It makes you play better, it makes me play better.

"My attitude is if that's what has to happen then that's what's going to happen. I have no problem with pressure. You're in a Canadian city now, the microscope is out there on everybody. I got a little taste of it with Team Canada events and playing (junior) in Vancouver."

He was only in a white practice jersey on Thursday but Kane again confirmed his choice to wear No. 9 for the Jets. There was no number on his jersey, but the numeral was on the back of his helmet.

"In Winnipeg here, they really encouraged me to wear No. 9, and that was my first choice, so it was a pretty easy thing to do," Kane said about wearing Bobby Hull's old number.

Kane scored 19 goals and 43 points for the Atlanta Thrashers last season.

NOTES: The Jets announced Thursday that they will have a partnership with the Colorado Eagles, finally giving them an ECHL affiliate. Colorado, which has former Moose sniper Greg Pankewicz as an assistant coach, has played previously in the CHL but is joining the ECHL this season.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca