Jets revved up

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:45 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Jets players were still buzzing about their first home-ice appearance, a day after their pre-season win over Columbus.

Rookies and veterans alike hadn't seen, or heard, anything like it.

"It was breathtaking," 18-year-old Mark Scheifele said. "I was getting the chills."

Defenceman Mark Stuart, a seven-year pro, says it wasn't anything like a pre-season game.

"You can't say enough about the crowd and the noise," Stuart said. "It was a playoff atmosphere."

Jets captain Andrew Ladd said it reminded him of the Stanley Cup Final games he played in Edmonton, when he was with Carolina.

Players sitting up in the press box were equally taken aback.

"I've never seen an exhibition game like that," Bryan Little said.

Former Leaf Nik Antropov says it topped his experience in Toronto.

"It was a step up, obviously," Antropov said. "It was unbelievable. I didn't experience this for quite a bit. Obviously in Atlanta it wasn't like that. Fans were like a sixth player for us. We felt that."

So what's a noisy home crowd going to be worth this season?

"It all depends on what you do with it," Stuart said. "If you feed off it and play even harder because of the crowd, it can definitely help a team. Any team in this league really wants to develop that home advantage, where any visiting team does not want to play in that building. It may take a while, but we need to develop that as well."

WILD BUFF: Head coach Claude Noel acknowledged defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is a bit of a freelancer. But he's not complaining.

"Freelance would be a word that you could use," a chuckling Noel said. "He freelances a bit, but that's OK. Some people would see it as part of his weakness, but I think it's part of his strength. You wouldn't want to have everybody freelancing."

GOOD AND BAD: While the Jets did many good things against Columbus, Noel's job was to see the bad, too.

"The intelligence, the lack of. The picking up coverage, the not picking up. Some of the scoring chances that we gave up — whoa, what are we thinking? Why would you not pick him up? That tells you intelligence. That's what I needed to see."

MOVING TIME: The Jets might release some players by the weekend, with road games Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The team will again split into two groups, one going to Nashville and St. John's, the other to Carolina ... Blake Wheeler missed Wednesday's practice after taking a shot off his foot ... Forwards Kyle Wellwood and Marco Rosa have been cleared for full contact.

QUOTE: "It's all good stuff. That's what drives athletes and sports, and it's beautiful."

— Noel on the first-shift mayhem, Tuesday.


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