WINNIPEG -- Twenty-nine other NHL teams have had their home opener.
Tonight, in front of 15,294 loud, glow-wand waving fans, known around the NHL for their volume, the Winnipeg Jets (3-1-0) will be the 30th.
“We’re not going to try to guard against that energy. We’re going to figure out how to use it,” said head coach Paul Maurice following this morning’s skate. “This is a unique building. It’s very loud, and the fans are great. We have got to find a way to harness that. I think later in the season last year we did. We were really strong at home. I guess it’s the smart way, ‘you want to temper it, the whole even keel.’ We’re not doing that. We’re going to try and use this, try to experience this.”
Experiencing MTS Centre on an opening night is something Nikolaj Ehlers, Nic Petan, and Andrew Copp have yet to experience. When the puck drops tonight against the Calgary Flames, Maurice wants them to enjoy every minute.
“All the kids are going to be jacked up,” he said. “I’m hoping the veterans are jacked up. I hope they get out there, and the national anthem is going, and there’s only going to be one, so that’s even better, and it’s a great building. I hope they’re nervous, and on-edge, and wired.”
In front of that home crowd, the Jets amassed a 23-13-5 record last season. Now the focus is improving on a road trip that saw the Jets win three of four games. The Flames however, come in with a 1-2-0 record, following a 4-3 loss to St. Louis on Tuesday.
“They’re hungry. They probably haven’t had the start they wanted, and they want to get a win,” said forward Bryan Little. “They’re a fast team, a young team, with a lot of energy.”
Maurice compares Calgary’s style of play to the Jets most recent opponent, the New York Rangers.
“There are three or four teams that stretch differently, that transition differently, that will run a very long break out at times right from deep below their goal line almost to the far blue (line),” said Maurice. “So they have a different way of moving the puck. We think we handled it well against New York.
“Then I think hash marks to the blue line in our own end, is a real area. It’s not just they’ll make plays, they have some skill, but it’s the back end you have to watch.”
The same players who handled that challenge against New York are projected to be in the Jets line-up tonight:
Ladd – Little – Wheeler
Perreault – Scheifele – Ehlers
Burmistrov – Lowry – Stafford
Thorburn – Copp – Petan
Pardy – Byfuglien
Enstrom – Myers
Stuart – Trouba
Adam Pardy saw his first action of the regular season in the win over New York, filling in for Ben Chiarot who remains day-to-day with an injury.
“He comes in and makes a big impact,” said Maurice. “The numbers don’t lie, when he’s in our line-up the penalty kill is better. He does a really good job in that department. I think he feels valued, and he’s certainly valued in the room.”
A home opener can bring a lot of excitement to a dressing room, but Little, who notched two goals in Tuesday’s win over New York, looks at it as merely a beginning to something bigger.
“It’s always exciting coming back home after a road trip,” he said. “The first game, tonight, is really important for us to set the tone for this home stand.”
The fans will be looking to set the tone for the fifth season at MTS Centre. Mathieu Perreault remembers his first Jets home opener last season.
“The first game here was awesome,” he said. “With this crowd especially, we’re excited for tonight’s game.”
Puck drop at MTS Centre is set for 7 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com