WINNIPEG -- Following a 1-0 overtime loss to open the NHL pre-season, the Winnipeg Jets are back at it tonight in Edmonton against the Oilers. Most of the players who skated in last night’s game will not play tonight, with the exception of five:
Alex Burmistrov, Thomas Raffl, Joel Armia, Brendan Kichton, and Andrew Copp.
“It’s good for (Burmistrov) to get back in, he hasn’t played a lot of hockey here,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said following the morning skate. “The table can’t be set perfectly for these kids every night. They should be excited to get back in on back-to-back because they get another look. After tonight there’s five (games left), and in three of those games I’m going to get pretty close to our line-up. Being of the five that got back in, is a real positive.”
The Jets will face an Edmonton team that has won both pre-season games they’ve played so far. The Oilers will ice a line-up with established veterans such as Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov, with Ben Scrivens and newly acquired Cam Talbot acting as the goaltending tandem.
But Maurice says exposure to a veteran line-up like Edmonton’s isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the younger Jets players.
“They’ve got some pretty good fire power in their line up coming into the game. We’re going to spend a little bit of time in our end of the ice,” he said. “We’re going to have to read rushes. We’re going to have to do all the things that these young guys have to learn at this level before they can get themselves into the holes of those offensive chances, the top six roles.”
Two Jets veterans that will take to the ice at Rexall Place tonight are Adam Lowry and Jay Harrison. Harrison, with 14 years of professional hockey under his belt, recalls what it was like to be a young player looking to make an impression.
“I’ll do my best to keep it light for them. Some guys, if they’re looking a little too serious in the corner, maybe throw a joke to them. Just lighten it up a little bit,” he said. “But at the same time I’m focused on my own job, and I have a level I want to meet and reach through this exhibition and training camp experience. I will be kind of wearing both caps tonight.”
The seniority Harrison has as a veteran in the NHL serves him well when it comes to nerves. But he knows it doesn’t guarantee him a spot on the team’s deep blue line.
“Nor should it,” the 32-year-old defenceman said. “You always come in, and that’s a habit I’ve always had, I’ve never come into a training camp not expecting to prove myself. Not expecting to be given anything. I don’t think this year is any different, especially with the defensive core we have this year, and the young guys coming up as well. You really have to prove yourself on each and every occasion you can to prove and ensure your position with the club.”
Lowry proved himself throughout his 2014-2015 rookie season and playoffs, but knows there is a huge value to the pre-season, especially if injuries start to change the line-up in the regular season.
“You get comfortable playing with certain guys you may not have the opportunity to play with every night. You get some of that rust off, when the regular season starts, you’re in top form,” said Lowry, who notched 23 points in his rookie campaign. “You look at last year, we got off to a bit of a slow start. We’re going to want to use this pre-season to get geared up and be ready for the start of the season.”
With six more pre-season games left, Maurice is taking every opportunity to learn about every player he can. That includes Raffl, who is on a professional tryout, and Armia (acquired in the trade with Buffalo last season), even if that means one less look at Nic Petan and Brendan Lemieux. But that doesn’t mean Maurice is any less confident in their games.
“Petan and Lemieux I’ve got a little better handle on what their game is,” he said. “I’m still learning about Raffl and Armia. So those guys, if I’m going to put them together, one of those guys, in our line-up to start the season on a line, I’ve got to know them better.
Puck drop tonight is 8 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com