WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets will attempt to remain in contention for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at MTS Centre on Saturday.
The Hurricanes arrived early Saturday after a 3-2 road loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday and did not conduct a morning skate. The game Saturday will mark the third time in the Jets' past four at home they have faced an opponent that played the night before. The Jets, who have not played since defeating the Colorado Avalanche 5-4 in overtime Wednesday, are 2-1-0 in those games.
Wrapping up a three-game road trip, the Hurricanes have fallen out of contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference, although they are still mathematically eligible to qualify. The Jets are six points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference; Phoenix owns a game in hand. After meeting Carolina, the Jets begin a five-game road trip next week against the Dallas Stars.
"We're excited to play," Jets defenseman Mark Stuart said after the morning skate. "We're excited for this last stretch. We want to end this homestand on the right note and have some momentum going into this trip. We've put ourselves in a position [to contend]. That's what is so fun about this time of year.
"This is the best time of the year. You're playing for something, and we're right in the hunt. We've got a lot of work to do, but that's what makes it fun, too. The challenge is there and I think we're up for it."
The Jets have scored 12 goals in their past two home games and coach Paul Maurice is pleased with their progress offensively.
"We are getting closer to what the offensive zone is supposed to look like," Maurice said. "We're starting to get to the point where we can spend more time in [the opponent's] end and we're not really focused on creating so much off the rush and focused more on spending as much time in [an opponent’s] end as we can."
Defenseman Zach Bogosian, left wing Dustin Byfuglien and center Jim Slater missed the win Wednesday but are expected to play against Carolina, according to Maurice. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (lower body) will miss his fourth straight game, but Maurice said he might be available next week.
Bogosian’s re-entry into the lineup likely will mean that defenseman Paul Postma will be a healthy scratch after playing Wednesday. Forward Matt Halischuk is expected to sit out. The Jets returned center John Albert to the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League on Saturday.
Goaltender Cam Ward is expected to start for the Hurricanes. Goaltender Al Montoya will start for the Jets.
Here are the projected lineups for the Hurricanes and Jets:
Eric Staal - Jordan Staal - Alexander Semin
Jeff Skinner - Riley Nash - Elias Lindholm
Drayson Bowman - Manny Malhotra - Jiri Tlusty
Nathan Gerbe - Andrei Loktionov - Patrick Dwyer
Ron Hainsey - Justin Faulk
Andrej Sekera - John-Michael Liles
Jay Harrison - Brett Bellemore
Scratched: Radek Dvorak, Mike Komisarek, Justin Peters
Injured: Ryan Murphy (upper body), Joni Pitkanen (heel)
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik
Evander Kane - Eric O’Dell - Devin Setoguchi
Dustin Byfuglien - Olli Jokinen - Blake Wheeler
Eric Tangradi - Jim Slater - Anthony Peluso
Zach Bogosian - Tobias Enstrom
Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba
Adam Pardy - Keaton Ellerby
Scratched: Matt Halischuk, Paul Postma
Injured: Grant Clitsome (back), Ondrej Pavelec (lower body), Mark Scheifele (knee), Chris Thorburn (talus), James Wright (ankle)