BOSTON, Massachusetts – The beginning of a new season is an exciting time in the National Hockey League. For Winnipeg Jets rookies Nic Petan and Nikolaj Ehlers, who will make their professional debut tonight against the Boston Bruins, the excitement can barely be contained.
“It’s going to be pretty exciting, not only for me but for my family and friends as well. It’s nice to have my family and brother come down,” said Petan, who will have a total of six people in the crowd tonight. “It kind of feels surreal. I was thinking about it last night before bed. It’s just pretty cool. You’re getting texts from your friends, and stuff like that. It’s surreal, and I want to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Adam Lowry, who enters his second NHL season, vividly remembers his first NHL game. It was 364 days ago against the Arizona Coyotes.
“It’s something you dream of your entire life, and to finally get to realize that dream it’s something special. I’m looking forward to getting to watch them play in their first game, I’m sure they’re really excited,” said Lowry, who finished his rookie season with 11 goals and 23 points. “I remember last year in Phoenix, I didn’t get a good pre-game nap, I didn’t sleep too good the night before, but they’re going to go on and have great careers.
Lowry’s line with Drew Stafford and Alexander Burmistrov is one that head coach Paul Maurice has said he wants to go against some of the top lines in the NHL.
“Anytime you have your coach’s trust to go out there and accomplish a job it’s nice to hear,” said Lowry. “Getting to play with Drew and Alex, we offer a good variety of skillets, and we’re looking forward to that challenge.”
As far as NHL debuts go, Maurice says he likes to give rookies a similar speech each season.
“At the end of the day, it just boils down to enjoy it because you only get one of them. They’ve worked hard,” Maurice said. “As you know, no player gets here alone. Families, brothers, sisters, support, billets, all the people that go into getting you to the NHL, it’s too many to call. So the best thing they can go and do is enjoy it, take it all in.”
Tonight’s game in Boston will be the first of two in a back-to-back scenario for the Jets. Winnipeg split its two meetings with the Bruins last year, with the home team winning each time. Like the Jets, the Bruins line-up is different than in 2014-2015. Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton no longer wear the yellow and black, and while he’s still with Boston, veteran defenceman Zdeno Chara is not expected to play tonight.
On the Jets side, the lines at morning skate were similar to yesterday’s practice:
Ladd – Little – Wheeler
Perreault – Scheifele – Ehlers
Burmistrov – Lowry – Stafford
Thorburn – Copp – Petan
Chiarot – Byfuglien
Enstrom – Myers
Stuart – Trouba
After seven pre-season games, the energy was noticeable on the ice at TD Garden, with the regular season just hours away.
“We have fairly lively morning skates. I think everybody, first game, everybody is going to be wired up,” he said. “But they’ll settle into it after five or ten minutes. I think they’re just happy training camp is over. Coaches are too.”
The Jets went 3-2-2 in the pre-season, but now, each game counts for points in the standings. One only needs to remember how valuable each point was during the playoff push late last season. Lowry says he can’t wait to get it all started again.
“You get to training camp and you’re excited to get that underway. As it drags out, you’re counting down the days until the season really begins and you start playing for real,” he said. “The group we have in here, we’re really excited to get that going.”
Ondrej Pavelec gets the start for the Jets and Tuukka Rask will be between the pipes for the Bruins. Puck drop tonight is 6 pm CT.
– Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com