ANAHEIM - The big day has finally arrived.
It's a big day for Cole Perfetti, the 19-year-old forward the Winnipeg Jets selected 10th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft.
It's potentially a big day for Evgeny Svechnikov, who signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Jets - and should he arrive in Anaheim before the 9 pm CT puck drop against the Ducks - he'll make his debut in Jets colours.
And it's a big day for the Jets as a whole, as they begin the journey that is the 2021-22 regular season.
"I think this one feels a lot more normal," said Jets forward Adam Lowry, comparing the beginning of this regular season to the 2020-21 campaign back in January.
"I think we're really excited to see what a normal schedule looks like, albeit in an Olympic year," Lowry said. "There is the break and all of that, but we're really looking forward to playing all these different teams and travelling around, spending time with each other on the road and making the most of it again."
Video: PREGAME | Adam Lowry
The fact that it's the NHL debut for Perfetti, Lowry's linemate tonight, had him reminiscing this week about his first NHL game - a 6-2 victory over Arizona on Oct. 14, 2014.
"My mom was able to fly down, my sister, I had a lot of family come down to that game and we still talk about how special that moment was," Lowry said. "It was a special night for me and my family."
Tonight, Lowry will be trying to help Perfetti have a memorable experience just like that. His wingers have a combined 55 games of NHL experience (all of those coming from Jansen Harkins, obviously), while Lowry has 460.
"I've got to impose all my wisdom on them," said Lowry with a grin. "It's going to be fun. It's always nice injecting new blood into the lineup and getting to see someone play their first NHL game and witness their dream come true."
Jets head coach Paul Maurice says the youth on Lowry's wings tonight is different than what he's had in the past. More often than not, Maurice puts Andrew Copp on Lowry's left wing, creating a shutdown duo that can be used in any situation.
"With two younger wingers, we'd be a little bit more careful about that match-up," Maurice said. "But his experience means I'm not going to pull him off the ice for one. I may not leave it all night long, but there is enough experience on that line with a big centre down low - which is where you worry sometimes about younger players. I won't be pulling them off the ice."
Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
The rest of the Jets line-up, should Svechnikov be able to make it as Maurice assumes he will, is expected to look like it has the past couple days in practice:
One of the challenges of tonight's tilt - and, really, any game in the first couple months against an American team - is the lack of familiarity.
The Jets haven't played the Ducks since a 3-0 victory at Honda Center back on Nov. 29, 2019.
"(Anaheim) has a lot of young guys coming in. You look at the excitement around some of their young guys in (Trevor) Zegras, (Jamie) Drysdale and guys like that," said Lowry. "You can watch these players as much as you want on TV but until you get out there and until you get playing against them, you don't really have a feel for their true speed or their true skill."
Perhaps the best way to go about those games is to stick to what the Jets do best. More specifically, three critical themes that Maurice and the Jets have been talking about since training camp opened in late September.
Video: PREGAME | Paul Stastny
"I'm looking for those main themes. Not the subtleties, not the nuances, not even really the chemistry," said Maurice, referencing the fact the Jets are without Mark Scheifele tonight, who is finishing the final game of a four-game suspension from last season's playoffs.
"There are two or three things that we've talked about since the first day of camp. We want to be good in these areas. So you're looking for your effectiveness in those areas."
One of those areas is playing fast. Every single practice Maurice puts together, every schedule the players go through, is all about maximizing how fast they can play.
The ability to do that on a night-to-night basis is a challenge, one the Jets fully embrace.
After the pre-game nap that is, something Lowry recalls was a bit of a challenge before his NHL debut. Though he expects Perfetti will be just fine in that department.
"Usually, I have no problem falling asleep, pretty efficient at getting to sleep," Lowry laughed. "I don't think (Perfetti will) need a nap for today. I think he's going to have lots of energy. It's an exciting time for him."