WINNIPEG - There were still 10 defencemen in Winnipeg Jets camp as of Wednesday night and even one of the team’s long-time veteran blue-liners admits the fight for jobs has been intense.
“We’ve got some NHL experience through the first nine guys,” Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey said before the Jets 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at MTS Centre.
“(Derek) Meech has played close to 200 with Detroit, which is obviously good experience, (Randy Jones) has played for a while now, (Brett) Festerling has played NHL games, and the six who were here last year have all played close to 200 or more. There’s a lot of experimentation going on to see what people can do in different situations.”
Even the one player who has only one game of NHL experience, Paul Postma, has made an impression.
“Postie has played well, especially on the power play,” Hainsey said. “But there’s a lot of guys with some experience.”
Festerling, by the way, led all Jets in ice time Wednesday night, with almost 16 minutes.
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Top line of Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler looked strong all night and it seemed it would only be a matter of time before they did something special. Wheeler finally converted one of Little’s slick feeds, going top shelf for the winner in the third ... Quietest we’ve heard the Winnipeg crowd yet this year was during the first eight minutes of the second period when the Jets failed to register a shot on goal ... Bad change by Mark Stuart contributed to a goal by Carolina’s Tim Brent, but Stuart didn’t get a minus on the play. The player who jumped on for him, Randy Jones, did ... Mark Scheifele just seems to be getting in the right position to create chances, although he three times fanned on glorious opportunities from the slot ... Troy Bodie has been noticeable in every game he’s played so far. He must be close to earning a contract ... Solid, physical game by Evander Kane, an absolute force in the third period. Capped it off with a nice goal when he barged the net and beat Brian Boucher on a great feed by Patrice Cormier and added an empty netter ... Jets certainly look like they’ll be anything but boring this season ... Jets G Chris Mason needed a bounce-back game and he got it, stopping 17 shots.
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Winnipegger Jason Gregoire survived the first round of Jets cuts on Tuesday and was getting another chance to impress the coaching staff Wednesday night against the Hurricanes.
“The name of the game for guys in my situation is to last as long as you possibly can,” said the left-winger, who had one-point in two games heading into Wednesday’s action. “It’s cool knowing the coaches like what they see and want to get another look. I need to make the most of the opportunities”
Gregoire played on a line with Scheifele and Kane and registered two shots on goal.
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After Friday’s final pre-season game against the Nashville Predators, the Jets will be in the unusual situation of having to wait nine days before their regular-season opener Oct. 9 against Montreal.
“There’s advantages and disadvantages,” said C Ben Maxwell. “Maybe we’ll be a little cold in a game situation, but everybody is going to be rested up and we’re not going to have any excuses in terms of injury.”
Hainsey doesn’t think it will hamper the Jets much, though it could be a slight advantage for the Habs.
“I would expect Montreal to be little sharper because they play before us,” Hainsey said. “But everybody has pretty close to a week off, it’s an extra couple of days for us. It’s still going to be a matter of getting back into the flow of things. We just have to do whatever it takes to get sharp and get into the games.”
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The Florida Panthers announced Wednesday that any kids who show up in a costume for their game against the Jets on Oct. 31 will get in to the game for free. There must an awful lot of unsold tickets for that game. Clearly, the Panthers plan for Halloween is to dress up all those empty seats as fans ... As part of our 84-page souvenir Jets/NHL preview, which comes out in the Thursday, Oct. 6 edition of the Sun, there is a nation-wide hockey writers survey to pick the top 50 players in the league today. One Winnipeg Jet made the list. We’ll let you try to guess who ... Not exactly a glowing endorsement: TSN analyst Ray Ferraro described Jets C/LW Nik Antropov as a “big, rather slowish player.” ... NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL.com Wednesday that he will be in attendance at the Jets home opener on Oct. 9. Guess there will be a few boos from the crowd that night after all.