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Jets go for season sweep of Hurricanes

by Mike Battaglino

HURRICANES (30-31-9) at JETS (32-30-9)


Last 10: Carolina 4-6-0; Winnipeg 3-4-3

Season series: Chris Thorburn scored with 1:03 remaining to give the Winnipeg Jets a 2-1 win at the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 4, their first game in opposite conferences after once being division rivals. It made the Jets 9-2-0 under Paul Maurice, who was coaching against one of his former teams.

Big story: Each team remains on the fringe of Stanley Cup Playoff contention in its respective conference. Winnipeg trails the Phoenix Coyotes by six points for the second wild-card spot in the Western (having played one more game). Carolina trails the Columbus Blue Jackets by nine for the second wild-card spot in the East.

"There's the thought you would look at Carolina and say they're below us in the standings so this should be easy," Maurice told the Winnipeg Sun on Friday. "This is a pretty good hockey team ... and when they're going, they're going. They've got some speed. There's going to be really good players on the ice. We've got to do our things well."

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: Carolina rallied to tie the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, but gave up a shorthanded goal in the third period to lose 3-2.

"We're fighting, we know where we're at [in the standings]," captain Eric Staal told Fox Sports Carolina. "You have to win. You have to get results. It feels like for the most part, a lot this year, we're finding ways to not get the right results instead of get them, for whatever reason.

"It [stinks] for everybody, but we're going to work and get ready to play Winnipeg tomorrow."

The Hurricanes played their second game with a reconfigured top line of Alexander Semin, Eric Staal and Jordan Staal, after defeating the Blue Jackets 3-1 on Tuesday. Carolina has 12 games remaining.

"We're professional athletes; you have to [find motivation]," Eric Staal said. "You come to work every day as anybody else would. You compete, you work and that's all you can do. So we need to be ready to go tomorrow and get the right result."

Goalie Cam Ward could start after Anton Khudobin made 22 saves Friday.

Jets: Goaltender Al Montoya will start his fourth straight game, his longest run in two seasons with Winnipeg.

"There's two different challenges," Montoya told the Jets website Friday. "When you're not playing you have to really focus for that one game, or whatever it is, in a week. Then when you're playing consecutively, you have to make sure you're focused all the time. It's a different kind of challenge and it's one I'm up for and one I want to take care of."

Montoya is 2-1-0 in the three previous starts; he is 12-6-3 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .921 save percentage this season. Ondrej Pavelec, who has a lower-body injury, is 20-24-6 with a 2.97 GAA and .902 save percentage.

"Last game was our biggest and now tomorrow is our biggest game of the year," Montoya said. "That's the way I'm going to approach it, and looking forward to it."

Pavelec skated Thursday and is possible to return Monday against the Dallas Stars.

Who's hot: After two scoreless games, Semin scored two goals Friday to give him 11 points in 10 March games, and 26 in his past 28. … Jets forward Blake Wheeler has seven points in his past three games, including an overtime goal in a 5-4 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. Defenseman Tobias Enstrom has six points in his past four games. Forward Olli Jokinen has four points in three games. Forward Evander Kane has three in a three-game streak. Defenseman Paul Postma had two assists Wednesday, his first points in 10 games this season.

Injury report: Hurricanes defenseman John-Michael Liles (concussion) played Friday after missing six games. Forward Jiri Tlusty (lower body), forward Elias Lindholm (illness) and defenseman Justin Faulk (illness) played after sitting out Tuesday. Defenseman Ryan Murphy (upper body) did not play after he was injured Tuesday. … Maurice told reporters defenseman Zach Bogosian (upper body) and forwards Dustin Byfuglien (lower body) and Jim Slater (lower body) will skate Saturday morning and are likely to play. Forwards Mark Scheifele (knee) and Thorburn (ankle) are out.

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