NASHVILLE - Things are about to heat up for those left in Winnipeg Jets training camp.
With the second round of cuts expected to come down on Tuesday, many players enter the weekend with an opportunity to stand up and be counted.
The Jets play their third of seven NHL pre-season games on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena (7 p.m., Sports Radio 1290, TSN Jets) against the Nashville Predators and while Claude Noel hasn’t actually revealed who is going to play in the game, there are 30 players who made the trek and will then move on to St. John’s, Nfld. for Monday’s Kraft Hockeyville extravaganza.
Several players — most likely those trying to nail down a spot on the team — will have an opportunity to draw in for both contests while a few veterans are likely to see action in just one contest.
The other group of 20-plus are off to Charlotte, N.C. for a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.
What is becoming crystal clear is this: if you’re on the bubble and hoping to stick around for the final two pre-season games on home ice, this weekend is your time to shine.
With that in mind, here are five players with an opportunity to raise their stock with a strong performance (or two):
5. D Derek Meech — The Winnipegger is one of a handful of players locked in a battle to be the seventh or eighth blue-liner, with a chance to work himself into the regular rotation. He’s a strong puck mover with plenty of experience from his time with Detroit Red Wings organization. Randy Jones missed a few days of camp but is expected to play on Sunday in Charlotte.
4. C Patrice Cormier — For a team lacking size down the middle, the second-year forward might be able to help fill the void. A second-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in 2008, he was a key piece of the Ilya Kovalchuk trade and this might be the season the organization starts reaping the rewards.
3. LW Ben Maxwell — On a team looking for possible players to contribute to a third-line scoring line, the fourth-year pro is among the candidates trying to lay claim to the job. The Vancouver product has produced at the AHL level (scoring 22 goals as a rookie in 2008-09) and has the versatility to be able to play both centre and wing.
2. RW Spencer Machacek — He’s flown under the radar, but is one of the guys on the periphery right now. He brings a nice combination of grit and has the potential to chip in with some offence as well. Went pointless in 10 NHL games last season, but is coming off a season that saw him produce career highs with 21 goals, 32 assists and 53 points in 67 AHL games with Chicago Wolves. Not afraid to go to the high-traffic areas and get his nose dirty.
1. C Mark Scheifele — Surprise, surprise. After Tuesday’s virtuoso performance (two goals, four points), everyone is curious what the seventh overall pick is going to do for an encore. Can he keep up his high level of play? The 18-year-old has met every challenge so far, so it would be tough to bet against him right now.