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Bitetto's personality fitting right into Jets dressing room

"The team has been welcoming and it's going well." -Bitetto

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

WINNIPEG - It hasn't taken long for Anthony Bitetto's personality to take hold in the Winnipeg Jets dressing room.

"I try to be myself. I grew up that way. Being from New York you don't know when to shut up, probably," he said with a laugh following Monday's practice.

"This game is meant to be fun. You work and there are times you have to be serious, but there are a lot of times to have fun and enjoy these times. When I came in, I tried to make buddies as quick as possible and it's been good. The team has been welcoming and it's going well."

The 28-year-old signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Jets on July 2 and while he's only played a couple of exhibition games for the team, he has enjoyed being on the right side of the fans inside Bell MTS Place.

Video: TRAINING CAMP | Anthony Bitetto

He's more than familiar being on the visiting side of things after spending parts of five seasons with the Nashville Predators and another 18 games with the Minnesota Wild last season.

"The building is always fun to play in," Bitetto said. "It was always one of those buildings that you come into and it's going to be loud and a fun environment. To be on the right side of things, it's been good so far."

Bitetto had one assist and five shots on goal in Winnipeg's 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday night. Jets head coach Paul Maurice has liked what the left shot defenceman has brought to the room since arriving at the start of camp.

"It's like when you get moved to a new school and making new friends. It's not easy for everybody, but he doesn't have that problem," said Maurice. "He's already chirping some of the forwards. What a great personality. That was a real good pick up for us. He practices hard, plays hard, just a really good pro."

The Island Park, NY native's five shots on goal tied Jets captain Blake Wheeler for the team lead in the victory over the Flames. But Bitetto isn't the type to go searching for offence if the chance isn't there. He has 19 career points in 132 NHL games and is confident with his game, even though he may have been a victim of the depth on the blue line in Nashville for much of his career.

"Obviously I was in Nashville for a while and those are some elite players. Even the three and four (defencemen) could be ones and twos on other teams," said Bitetto. "Even with the five and six, I think maybe I tried to do too much at times to break into that six constantly. I fought an injury early on in my career there, but I'm excited about this opportunity. I'm healthy, I feel confident, and I'm looking forward to it."

There are still 10 days to go before the start of the regular season, so Bitetto knows there is still work to do to earn his spot on the Jets roster.

"The main goal for me is to defend hard. If I'm defending hard I'm doing my job," Bitetto said. "If I get the puck up to those guys, get pucks through, then good things will happen. Like last night, I hit four guys and I got an assist out of it. 

"Overall I think my skating ability, I try to skate up the ice and create things when it's there but not try to do too much."

But Maurice says newcomers like Bitetto - or Gabriel Bourque and Mark Letestu - can do themselves a big favour by fitting into the group and getting the systems down, quickly.

"How far he gets up in the line-up, we won't limit that," Maurice said of Bitetto. "We'll let him come in and let his play dictate where he plays. But as far as being a Winnipeg Jet that we enjoy having, some personality in the room, he's been great."

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