WINNIPEG - It will be a veteran-laden lineup for the Winnipeg Jets tonight against the Minnesota Wild, but there are some new guys to keep an eye out for at Bell MTS Place.
Michael Sgarbossa signed a one-year deal with the Jets in the summer after splitting time last season between Anaheim and Florida. In his 38 NHL contests last year, the winger recorded nine points, 33 shots on goal and 39 hits.
The Ontario native will wear No. 4. When was the last time you saw a forward wear a number lower than seven?
"I get that a lot," Sgarbossa said in the dressing room following Monday's morning skate. "For me, it was my minor hockey number growing up. But it was also my favourite number, I grew up a big fan of Bobby Orr."
Did he ever play defence, though?
"I never played the same position as him, but I didn't see why I couldn't be the same number. This is the first year they (a pro team) let me pick my number and I just said, 'Why not?' I've always had crazy numbers like 78, 43, 48 and 55."
This is Sgarbossa's sixth season in pro hockey after wrapping up a successful junior career with a 47-goal, 102-point campaign with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League. His best seasons were 44-point efforts with the Lake Erie (now Cleveland) Monsters in 2012-13 and in 2015-16 with the San Diego Gulls.
With each passing season, Sgarbossa wants to make sure that he's improving in some area of his game.
"Whether it's getting better at what you are already good at or getting better at something that you struggle with," he said. "I think my first couple of years of being a pro was getting to know the pro game. How many games you play and the physical grind, and the toll it takes on your body and your mind and being able to perform; it's more of a job than it is in junior hockey."
How does he feel he will fit in with the Jets organization?
"For this year, this is an offensive team and I'm an offensive player, and I think it's just going to mesh really well. This is my first year here, I've played against a bunch of these guys and I know a couple of them from summer training, so every year you get more comfortable. It's been a pretty intense, pretty competitive camp. But it's a good mix of guys so far. Everyone seems very friendly and very accommodating and it's something as a new guy that you want."
During Monday's morning skate, Sgarbossa was with Brendan Lemieux and Marko Dano on the fourth line. He's excited about the chance to get into a real game situation.
"I think the game is where the coaching staff can see what this guy will bring or this is where he can fit into our game plan or whatever our team needs," Sgarbossa said. "So I think that's the most important thing and especially the first game of the year, you know you've been training all summer, you've been skating, you've been working on skills but you haven't been able to test it at game speed. It's something you actually can't prepare for until you get into a game."
- Jamie Thomas, WinnipegJets.com