WINNIPEG - The schedule may call tonight's preseason tilt in Minnesota against the Wild 'exhibition game number three' for the Winnipeg Jets, but head coach Paul Maurice has a different name for it.
"Yes it's an exhibition game, but it's not an exhibition game for these guys, it's a try-out game," said Maurice. "You want them excited about that because there's some pressure. They're going to be a little jittery before the game, there will be some nerves, we want to see them handle that right too."
The Jets will go with a line-up with far less NHL experience than in the previous two preseason games held at Bell MTS Place. In fact, 12 of the 20 players on the Jets roster tonight have less than 50 games of NHL experience.
One of those is Brendan Lemieux, who sees his second action of the preseason tonight, after seeing nine minutes of ice time in Monday's shootout loss to the Wild.
Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
"That's what preseason is all about. You want to give different guys different looks," said Lemieux. "It's important guys keep their game simple, and bring what they bring. There is a lot of high end skill in this organization, especially in the depth of it. Those guys, they just have to come ready to play their game. As for me, I know my game and I know my role. That's what I try to bring each and every night I play."
The 21-year-old forward played that role very well on Monday. With three shots on goal and four hits, Lemieux's game was exactly what Maurice was looking for.
"He looked like he had his skating legs," Maurice said after the game. "He played hard, he played fast, but was under control in his routes. He was pretty sharp there. Good physical guy, got some pucks to the net, I liked his game."
Those skating legs could be directly related to Lemieux's commitment to improving his cardio and quickness this off-season.
"I made a really conscious effort to get leaner, but not just that, just lose some mass especially in the upper body area," Lemieux said. "I wanted to make sure that being a heavier, bigger body, and a guy that plays physical, I can still keep up with those quick guys. Losing some pounds and working a lot on my cardio and my quickness is going to help me in the long run.
"I've felt better, and I know it's only going to get better as the season goes on."
Tonight's match-up closes out a stretch of three games in four nights for the Jets, with another road game set for Saturday night in Edmonton. Maurice said early in camp that he had these two road games circled as an opportunity for players battling for spots to show what they can do.
"This is go get'em the next two games. Let's see what you've got," said Maurice. "They're going to play against real guys that spend real time in the NHL. Those are the players they are very sure they can compete very well with, at least as good as the guy who has the job.
"These next two games are of critical importance for all the guys that are on that bubble."
Maurice wants to see how these players handle the nerves that may come with opportunity. Lemieux feels the best way to handle those pre-game jitters is to keep things simple, as the Jets (0-1-1) look for their first win of the preseason.
"They've had a look at what we bring, so we definitely have to simplify, we need to keep being direct as the coaches said yesterday," said Lemieux. "Just keep putting pucks to the net, probably have to simplify our neutral zone a little bit, make sure pucks are going north south, and that's how we're going to have a decent effort here with a younger group on the road."
Connor Hellebuyck will get his second start of the exhibition season. The 24-year-old made 34 saves on 36 shots on Monday night.
Puck drop is set for 7 pm CT.
- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
JETS GAME NOTES
The Winnipeg Jets continue their seven-game 2017 preseason schedule tonight at Xcel Energy Center against the Minnesota Wild...The Wild won both clubs' preseason opener 3-2 (SO) on Monday at Bell MTS Place...The Jets' next preseason action is Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.
Against the Wild
The Jets lost four of the five games against the Wild last season...It was Winnipeg's worst record in a season series against Minnesota since joining the Central Division for the 2013-14 season...Winnipeg's lone win last year came on Mar. 19 at home 5-4...Mark Scheifele (2G, 4A) and Mathieu Perreault (1G, 5A) led the Jets with six points against Minnesota last season...Overall, the Jets are 11-9-2 in the regular season against Minnesota since 2011.
Twelve of the 20 players expected to suit up for the Jets tonight have less than 50 games of NHL experience...The lineup also features four players that were signed by the club this summer in defenceman Cam Schilling and forwards Matt Hendricks, Buddy Robinson and Mike Sgarbossa.
Defenceman Cam Schilling and forward Buddy Robinson make their Jets preseason debut tonight
Draft and Develop
Of the 20 players in the lineup for the Jets tonight, 13 were drafted by the organization, including both goaltenders and five of the six defencemen...2015 first-round picks Kyle Connor (17th overall) and Jack Roslovic (25th) are both scheduled to be in the lineup tonight.
The Jets roster features four Minnesotans - Dustin Byfuglien (Roseau), Matt Hendricks (Blaine), Tucker Poolman (East Grand Forks) and Blake Wheeler (Plymouth)...Hendricks and Poolman are expected to be in the lineup tonight.