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Capitals must find answer for soaring Jets

by Mike G. Morreale

JETS (28-25-5) at CAPITALS (25-23-9)


Last 10: Winnipeg 8-2-0; Washington 3-6-1

Season series: This is the second of two games between the Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals. Back on Oct. 22 at MTS Centre, Martin Erat scored the deciding goal in the sixth round of a shootout to give the Capitals a 5-4 victory. Alex Ovechkin had two goals, one assist and seven shots. Bryan Little had two goals for the Jets.

Big story: The Jets improved to 9-2-0 under interim coach Paul Maurice, who replaced Claude Noel on Jan. 12, and won their third straight by beating the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 on Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C. What made the win against the Hurricanes significant was the fact Maurice felt the game might have been the team's weakest performance since he took over behind the bench.

"To be honest with you, it wasn't our best game," Maurice told the Winnipeg Sun. "I don't know that we played to our strengths. It's good to win a game when you're not necessarily at your best."

After meeting the Capitals, the Jets will close out their four-game road trip against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

Team Scope:

Jets: Maurice has the Jets back in the thick of the Stanley Cup Playoff hunt in the Western Conference. The club snapped a 1-1 tie with 1:03 left in regulation on Tuesday when Chris Thorburn knocked in a loose puck off a wraparound attempt by Jacob Trouba against the Hurricanes. Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves in the victory.

"Everyone understands their role and we're playing as a team," Thorburn said. "With winning comes confidence, and confidence is a dangerous thing. We're riding with it."

Capitals: Michal Neuvirth made 27 saves but suffered a 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday. The Capitals, who two days earlier beat the Detroit Red Wings 6-5 in overtime, have six wins in the past 22 games (6-10-6). They have won just three of their past 10 games (3-3-4) at Verizon Center and have scored two or fewer goals in half of them.

"So far this season I don't think we've been able to put together a six-, seven- or eight-game streak which gives you a little breathing room in the standings, and that's why we're in a fight right now," forward Brooks Laich said. "Certainly this is one that's going to hurt. But we've got no choice. We've got to move forward. We've got two games before the break and we've got to have them both."

Who's hot: Jets wing Blake Wheeler has four goals, seven points and a plus-5 rating in the past six games. ... Ovechkin has five goals and 10 points in the past seven games.

Injury report: Jets forwards Evander Kane (hand), Jim Slater (hernia), Matt Halischuk (forearm) and defenseman Grant Clitsome (back) are out. Defenseman Paul Postma (blood clot) is on a conditioning stint with St. John's of the AHL. … Capitals center Mikhail Grabovski (ankle) is doubtful. Defensemen Mike Green (concussion) and Jack Hillen (right tibia surgery) are out.

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