SAN JOSE — You could say there was a little extra giddy-up in Mark Scheifele's step on Friday. In fact, the Winnipeg Jets No. 1 centre came sprinting up the stairs of the San Jose Sharks practice facility to meet a small gathering of scribes to chat about finally getting sprung from the NHL's penalty box.

SAN JOSE — You could say there was a little extra giddy-up in Mark Scheifele's step on Friday. In fact, the Winnipeg Jets No. 1 centre came sprinting up the stairs of the San Jose Sharks practice facility to meet a small gathering of scribes to chat about finally getting sprung from the NHL's penalty box.

"Pretty excited," is how Scheifele described his current state-of-mind. Yeah, the whole flying through the air thing kind of gave it away, to be honest.

Officially, his four-game suspension lasted 136 days, the result of charging Montreal's Jake Evans in the final minute of Game 1 of their playoff series on June 2. The Jets went on to lose the next three games to the Habs sans Scheifele, along with Wednesday's regular-season opener in Anaheim.

"It’s been a long time. It sucked watching the other night. It always sucks to sit out," said Scheifele. He will slide back into his familiar role on the top line with captain Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor. He'll also look to provide a big boost to a power play unit that went 0-for-5 against the Ducks.

"You just want to get into the rhythm. I had a good practice today. You’ve just got to not try to score 100 goals on the first shift. Just take it stride by stride and enjoy it," said Scheifele.

Perhaps the only one smiling about as much as Scheifele was coach Paul Maurice.

"You can see it in practice, right?" said Maurice. "You get up and down the ice and such a skilled player but the kind of guy that can really bring out what Blake and Kyle can do. And it just makes it such a deeper team, special teams… it’s good to have him back."

Veteran Paul Stastny, who took Scheifele's spot between Wheeler and Connor in southern California, moves back to a third-line wing position with Adam Lowry. It appears rookie Cole Perfetti will be on the right side.

Mark Scheifele was suspended for this hit on Jake Evans after the Montreal player scored an empty net goal during their first playoff game. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)</p>

Mark Scheifele was suspended for this hit on Jake Evans after the Montreal player scored an empty net goal during their first playoff game. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)

"He enjoyed it and he played great," Scheifele said of Perfetti, the 19-year-old taken 10th overall in 2020. "He’s a smart player and I think the more and more experience he gets, the better he’s gonna be. Every game is very valuable for him. He’s one of those guys that just soaks it up. He wants to learn, he asks questions every day. He’s just one of those kids that gets it."

That leaves some combination of Riley Nash, Jansen Harkins, Kristian Vesalainen and Evgeny Svechnikov for the fourth-line. Maurice wasn't tipping his hand on who comes out, with that decision and conversation happening at Saturday's morning skate.

Connor Hellebuyck, who was beaten four times on 22 shots, will get his second straight game in net. Scheifele said he saw plenty of positives from his press box perch despite the 4-1 setback to the Ducks.

"It’s an easy game from upstairs. It’s easy to talk about things from the cheap seats. It’s a totally different game down at ice level but you definitely see some things," he said. "The boys had a lot of good chances. Gibson played well the other night. We just want to build off the other night and have a good one (Saturday)."

Standing in their way is a rebuilding Sharks team that looks a lot different since the Jets last played them two years ago. They are in the middle of a youth movement, and will also be without their top scorer from last year, Evander Kane, who remains away from the team while an investigation into allegations made by his estranged wife continues

"We’re going through a lot more video and starting to see what changes (have been made) because we haven’t seen these guys in a long time," said Maurice. "There seems to be… when you used to come out to California, it was a pretty heavy, heavy game. You’ve got the L.A. Kings, who were winning Stanley Cups and they played a hard, heavy game. The veterans you would have had (in San Jose) with Joe Thornton, Brenden Dillon, there was some size to that team and they played that game. Clearly, Anaheim, with (Ryan) Kesler and (Ryan) Getzlaf. Now you’re seeing these teams trying to find that younger speed."

Indeed, this is a homecoming of sorts for Dillon, who spent six seasons in the Bay Area before going to Washington for the past two, then getting traded to Winnipeg this past summer.

"It’s pretty cool coming back here to San Jose. Six unbelievable years, really," Dillon said Friday. "Just from a hockey standpoint and as a person, I definitely grew a lot. Nice to come back and see that it’s going to be a good game (Saturday). Maybe hit those guys a little bit, not too hard, but too hard.

He still keeps in touch with a handful of familiar faces who are still around.

"I’ve talked a little bit with the guys that I keep in touch with (Logan Couture), (Tomas) Hertl, (Brent Burns), Erik (Karlsson). They seem to have turned a page here coming in," said Dillon. "I know Bougy (Bob Boughner) is a great coach. I know he’s got them dialed in with a full training camp. I know the whole gong show last year they had to deal with, I think guys are just a little bit more excited to have some normalcy. It should be fun."

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.