Oilers forward Jujhar Khaira skated with the early group of players at practice on Friday morning and is predicted to see his first game action, tomorrow, since the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, B.C. before the start training camp.
"I'm really excited, but there are nerves," said Khaira. "Getting to play against and with and the guys that I've been watching growing up. It's mostly excitement."
Khaira is slated to skate against the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow night at Rexall Place in Edmonton. He got a taste of the fan base when he watched the Oilers pre-season opener last Saturday from high up in the stands.
"The fans love the Oilers. We were sitting up by the press box against Calgary and it's cool to see. When there's a play, everybody goes nuts. I'm excited and I hope I make a couple good plays out there."
When the youngsters on the Oilers roster step out onto the ice for their first NHL pre-season game, there is usually a moment of reflection on their part. It's a moment in which the player can look up into the stands and around at the players who surround them and realize that they've taken the next step towards a NHL career.
Khaira says that he will probably take that moment as well.
"I'm sure I will. I've never played in a building this big for an actual game and for the Edmonton Oilers. Throwing on the jersey with all of these guys, these NHL guys, and seeing all of the fans that are going to be here… It's going to be really exciting. I will definitely take a moment."
Facing off against the Canucks could be an intimidating thing for a young player. You look across the ice at players like the Sedin brothers in a Canucks uniform and the eyes get a little wider and the heart pumps a little faster.
Khaira is ready to face that head on.
"I have to know my role right from the beginning. I can't be scared or intimidated by the big names on the other side or on our side. I have to play my game. That's what has gotten me here so far and hopefully it's going to help me out in the future."
The Oilers forward has been working as a centre for much of rookie camp and training camp and practiced between Ryan Hamilton and Nail Yakupov this morning. He is comfortable in that role.
"Right now, I am used to both because in the last week I've been practicing both," said Khaira. "Before that, I was used to centre because last year I played centre all year and in (the Young Stars Classic) I played centre. I'd say I'm more so used to centre."