JETS (22-20-6) at HURRICANES (17-24-9)
TSN-JETS, FS-CR (HD)
Winnipeg 3-6-1; Carolina 4-3-3
This is the fourth of six season meetings between these Southeast Division rivals. Winnipeg has prevailed in each of the first three, winning by a two-goal margin each time. In the last meeting on Dec. 9, Winnipeg chased starter Cam Ward
after 30 minutes and wound up winning 4-2.
Two teams who fell in a shootout in their most recent games will look to bounce back before the All-Star break when they face off in the RBC Center Monday night. Just two points separate Winnipeg from the top eight, but as the Jets kick off a six-game road swing, they must take advantage of winnable away games like this one to close that gap. Carolina is all but eliminated from contention and will be playing its third game in four days.
With the season entering the critical point where wins and points mean so much, Winnipeg has struggled to maintain any traction, winning just two of its past seven games. That's due in part to injuries to key players like Winnipeg's lone All-Star Dustin Byfuglien
-- on injured reserve with a knee injury -- and leading scorer Evander Kane
, who sat out Saturday with concussion-like symptoms. A larger problem for coach Claude Noel, however, was the number of costly turnovers.
"The disappointing part in the game for me," Noel said, "was really the fact that we gave them three free goals. I thought that was really disappointing. We had poor possession of the puck three times in our zone. We served up three pizzas that ended up in our net."
Still, spurred by their raucous home crowd, the Jets twice erased Florida leads to send the game into overtime. The Jets had the better of chances in the latter half of the game and tried to take advantage, outshooting Florida 29-13 over the final 45 minutes. Time will tell if they can maintain that fortitude over this six-game trip.
If anything is playing into Carolina's hands, it is home-ice advantage. Over the last five, the flagging 'Canes won just twice, but both of those games came in Raleigh against teams currently in playoff position. Carolina beat Boston 4-2 on Jan. 14, then shut eighth-place Washington out, 3-0, on Friday. In between, Carolina has fallen further in the overall standings – they are currently 14th, nine points out of playoff position – with losses at Washington, Pittsburgh and, most recently, a 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday. If there was a bright spot, it is that Carolina No. 1 Cam Ward
is finally living up to his Conn Smythe-winner reputation; he is 4-2-2 with a .952 save percentage over his last eight. He hasn't conceded more than two goals over that stretch.
"Our guys did battle hard. This game could have gone either way," Ward said. "The Islanders are a quick team with lots of offense and pucks to the net. We had our hands full, and Tavares certainly showed some great hand-eye coordination on that winning goal."
Winnipeg's Nik Antropov
has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last three games. … Jussi Jokinen
had two goals in Friday's shutout of Washington, and has 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists) in 20 career games versus the Winnipeg franchise.
Byfuglien is on injured reserve, and Kane is expected to miss Monday's game. Zach Bogosian
(lower body) was questionable but played Saturday's game against Florida. … Chad LaRose
played for the ‘Canes Saturday, despite an upper-body injury. Jaroslav Spacek
(head) and Jerome Samson
(upper body) both missed the game with respective injuries. Backup goalie Brian Boucher
(lower body) and Joni Pitkanen
(concussion/knee surgery) are both out indefinitely.
Winnipeg has the fewest road wins of any team in the East outside of – you guessed it – Carolina. If the Jets home form has them battling for a playoff spot, their away form will determine if they actually land one. Goalie Ondrej Pavelec
will have to more reliable away from Manitoba. Pavelec is 5-9-4 on the road, with a 3.45 GAA and .895 save percentage.
The loss of Kane to concussion-like symptoms is troubling for Noel, but the coach said his Jets would push through it.
"It's a fairly grey area, and you just don't know what you're dealing with. That's the problem. Is it going to be a few days? Is it going to be a few weeks? You don't know. But I'll handle that the way I've had to deal with everything else. We have what we have."