By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Austin Madaisky won’t ever forget Tuesday night in Winnipeg.
Madaisky, a 19-year-old defenceman, was in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ lineup for the return of the Jets to Winnipeg.
There were 15,004 fans in the sold-out MTS Centre for the exhibition game and, yes, it was noisy. Madaisky may as well have been standing in the middle of a busy runway at Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport as the Jets arrived.
“You couldn’t even hear the intro music or the announcer giving the starting lineups over the public address system,” said Madaisky, who will begin the trek back to Kamloops today and will play in the Blazers’ WHL regular-season opener here against the Prince George Cougars on Saturday. “You couldn’t hear anything.
“It was crazy . . . it was nuts. It felt like Stanley Cup playoffs out there.”
This was the Jets’ first NHL appearance in Winnipeg since a playoff game on April 28, 1996, after which the franchise moved to Phoenix.
Madaisky said the Jets, who won 6-1, were kind of pumped for this one.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Off the first shift, there were two fights to start the game. Right from the start . . . it was crazy.
“Being influenced by that crowd and the buildup, not only from game day, but what transpired over the last month there, I’m sure they were pretty anxious to show the fans a little something. There were four fights . . . it was pretty wild.”
This also was Madaisky’s NHL debut and, he said, it was something he never will forget.
“Even just flying out there in the team plane and things like that . . . it was just a hell of an experience,” he said.
Madaisky, who watched the Blue Jackets beat the visiting Washington Capitals ?? on Wednesday night, was a fifth-round pick by Columbus in the NHL’s 2010 draft. This was his second NHL training camp, although he has yet to sign an NHL contract. Still, he doesn’t feel that he did anything to hurt his chances.
“I thought I held my own,” he said of the game, in which he played 11 minutes 16 seconds and finished minus-1. “It’s probably the fastest hockey I’ve ever played. Everything happens a lot quicker out there.
“It’s one of those things where every game you play, it starts to slow down a little more. As the game went on I started to feel more and more comfortable . . . confidence started to rise after a couple of simple plays.
“It felt good out there.”
Like most junior players who get to play in the NHL, Madaisky quickly learned that play is far more structured there than in the WHL.
“Absolutely, in terms of positioning and things like that,” he said. “It’s hard to get used to at first, but once you get used to it, it’s easier than the junior game because it is more structured. It just takes a while to get that timing down . . . especially as a young defenceman, not to get caught up in running around and over-committing and things lke that.”
Madaisky learned in a hurry that a lot of it is about “simplifying the game and letting the game come to you.”
He also found out that, after being a veteran defenceman in the Blazers’ camp, he was the younger guy, partnered with veteran journeyman Aaron Johnson, 28.
“Yeah,” Madaisky said. “All of a sudden, I’m the younger guy. It took a bit of getting used to at first, but once you get the nerves out and settle down it’s really just another game.
“It’s just that everything’s a lot faster.”
Madaisky came out of the game believing more than ever that he is capable of being a regular in the NHL.
“Obviously, I think it’s going to take a couple more years of development,” he stated, “but I think it’s possible.
“Strength, battling in the corners . . . I was holding my own and I know that I can only get better.”
JUST NOTES: D Josh Caron, 20, was returned to the Blazers by the Minnesota Wild yesterday. Madaisky’s return will leave only F J.T. Barnett, 19, in an NHL camp. He is with the New Jersey Devils, but didn’t play in last game’s exhibition game against the New York Rangers. The two teams have a rematch Friday. . . . Blazers D Brady Gaudet, who wore No. 28 last season as a freshman, has switched to No. 7. The last regular to wear No. 7 was Slovakian D Michal Siska (2008-09). Last season, F Jesse Sinatynski wore it for three games. In 2009-10, D Max Mowat wore it in one game.
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