JETS (35-34-8) at HURRICANES (31-31-15)
TV: TSN-JETS (HD), FS-CR (HD)
Winnipeg 3-7-0; Carolina 6-4-0
Sixth and final meeting between these Southeast Division rivals. Winnipeg took the first three matchups, but Carolina has won the last two -- including a 4-3 win on March 18 at MTS Centre, with Eric Staal
and Chad LaRose
scoring third-period goals to rally the Hurricanes.
When these teams last met, the Jets still had realistic hopes of claiming eighth in the Eastern Conference and bringing playoff hockey to Winnipeg in the city's first season back in the NHL. Blowing a one-goal lead in the final 10 minutes and losing to the Hurricanes started the Jets on a 1-5 tailspin that leaves them playing for little more than third in the division and a .500 record in terms of points percentage.
The final nail in Winnipeg coffin's may very well have been driven in Wednesday night by the East's top seed, the New York Rangers, who defeated the Jets 4-2 in particularly frustrating fashion for the home side. After outshooting the Blueshirts 11-4 during a scoreless first period, the Jets opened the scoring early in the second on goals by Spencer Machacek
and Bryan Little
56 seconds apart. But a shorthanded goal three minutes later when Winnipeg had a chance to go ahead by three started the Rangers on their way back, and they scored the next four unanswered.
"I think I'd be lying if I said we weren't a little emotionally drained," forward Tanner Glass
said, "but I think everyone is at this point of the season."
It's still realistic for Carolina to finish as high as 10th in the East, no small feat considering the Hurricanes spent plenty of time this season in the conference's basement. They snapped a two-game mini-skid and won their fifth in seven games Tuesday with a 3-0 blanking of the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Cam Ward
stopped all 32 shots he faced for his 21st career shutout and received offensive support from Jussi Jokinen
, Tim Brent
and Jay Harrison
"We got off to a good start," Ward said. "We were ready and we carried the majority of the play in the first period. It was a solid 60-minute effort by our team."
Machacek has 2 goals and 5 assists in eight games since the Jets called him up. … Jokinen has consecutive multi-point efforts for the Hurricanes, totaling 1 goal and 3 assists.
Winnipeg forwards Nik Antropov
(lower body) and Eric Fehr
(upper body) are day-to-day. Forward Chris Thorburn
(lower body) is on the trip and could return to the lineup for the first time since March 9. … Carolina defenseman Jaroslav Spacek
(lower body) and forward Andreas Nodl
(concussion-like symptoms) are out indefinitely.
Stat Pack: Ben Maxwell
has 1 goal and 4 assists in five games during his second stint with the Jets this season. He was scoreless in four games, then claimed off waivers by the Ducks on Nov. 10. Maxwell had 1 assist in six games with Anaheim before the Jets reclaimed him on Dec. 6. … Ward is one shutout from tying his single-season career high of six set back in 2008-09.
"It reminds me of the start of the season where we couldn't finish teams off and we couldn't play with a lead," Little said in the Winnipeg Free Press following Wednesday's defeat. "That's what we had tonight. We had a good opportunity and we let it slip away from us.
"There's a bunch of teams that are in the same situation we are, battling for their lives, and they're doing all right. I don't think it's fatigue. If anything, we should have a lot of energy to get up for these games."