Austin Madaisky is going to experience a piece of hockey history tonight.
Madaisky, a defenceman with the WHL's Kamloops Blazers, will be in the Columbus Blue Jackets' lineup wearing No. 54 for an NHL game against the Jets in Winnipeg tonight.
Only this isn't just your normal run-of-the-mill exhibition game.
Not only will this be Madaisky's NHL debut, but it will be the Jets' first game in the MTS Centre since the franchise relocated to the Manitoba capital from Atlanta over the summer.
You can bet that Winnipeg will be abuzz because the Jets haven't played there since April 28, 1996. Following that game, the Winnipeg franchise moved to Phoenix.
"It's pretty exciting to be a part of history, playing in the first game in that building there," Madaisky said Monday from Columbus. "I've heard it's already sold out so it should be pretty electrifying. The atmosphere should be good . . . it'll be exciting."
Guy Charron, the Blazers' head coach, allowed that he, too, is excited.
"That will be an unbelieveable experience," Charron said following Monday's practice at Interior Savings Centre. "He will be playing in a real pressure-cooker.
"It'll be jumping in the warmup and it won't stop."
Forward Andrew Ladd, the Jets' captain, told Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun that he assumes "it's going to be crazy in here."
"It's the fans first opportunity to show what they bring to the table and the excitement they have for this team," Ladd said.
The two NHL teams actually are playing two games tonight, with split squads meeting in Columbus and in Winnipeg. Madaisky was drawn on the travelling team and likely will be paired, at least to start, with Aaron Johnson, a 28-year-old veteran of 225 NHL games who spent last season with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals.
Madaisky has been with the Blue Jackets for a while now, having played for their rookie team at a preseason tournament in Traverse City, Mich. He moved on to main camp and, on the weekend, was paired with Steven Delisle during the annual Owners' Tournament. Delisle, 21, was a fourth-round selection by Columbus in the 2008 NHL draft.
Madaisky, Delisle and Team Wolfe won the four-team tournament at the OhioHealth Ice Haus on Sunday. Madaisky drew an assist on Aaron Bogosian's goal that tied the score 2-2 as Team Wolfe erased a 2-0 deficit and beat Team Pizzuti 5-2.
A fifth-round selection in the 2010 NHL draft, Madaisky had his 2010-11 season end prematurely when he suffered a broken neck during a game in Kamloops on Feb. 4. He is healthy again and said he received his first real physical test on Sunday when he was hit by veteran forward Rick Nash, who just happens to be the Blue Jackets' star player.
"I got hammered by Nash," Madaisky said. "I made a pass and he ran me over. I wasn't too upset . . . it was kind of cool. Everything felt OK. It was kind of like a test, I guess."
The Blue Jackets are to practice this morning in Columbus and fly to Winnipeg in mid-afternoon.
"I'm very excited," Madaisky said. "The first game in the new barn . . . the new era Winnipeg Jets, I guess.
"I'll try to take it all in."
Blazers forwards Logan McVeigh and Chase Souto, both of whom are out with concussions, skated by themselves on Monday.
The Blazers open the regular-season at home to the Prince George Cougars on Saturday. Charron said he hopes to be able to make a decision on both players by Thursday.
McVeigh, who is more likely to play Saturday than is Souto, was injured Sept. 3 in a game against the host Vancouver Giants. Souto went down a week later in a game against the Rockets in Kelowna.
Souto had two concussions last season, so the Blazers are being especially careful with him. He got into a fight in that game in Kelowna, but, according to Charron, said he wasn't hit with a punch. Rather, Souto told the coaching staff, he got the concussion from an errant elbow.
JUST NOTES: Former Blazers F Shayne Wiebe, who played out his junior eligibility last season and has since signed with the Jets, also will play tonight in Winnipeg. . . . LW Ryan Hanes (charleyhorse), the Blazers' other injured player, has received clearance to return to practice. He was injured in that Sept. 10 game in Kelowna. . . . Hanes and five other veterans - forwards Dylan Willick, J.C. Lipon and Jordan DePape, G Cam Lanigan and D Tyler Hansen - missed practice Monday as they were in Vancouver taking part in the EDGE Project. They spent time on Vancouver's lower east side with RCMP officers and, throughout the season, will visit local schools and talk about their experiences. . . . The Blazers continue to carry three goaltenders, with Lanigan being joined by Cole Cheveldave, 18, and Taran Kozun, 17. Charron said he expects to open the season with all three on the roster.
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