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Key division points at stake as Jets host Hurricanes

by Brian Hunter

HURRICANES (15-15-2) at JETS (18-15-2)

TV: FS-Carolinas, TSN-JETS

Last 10: Carolina 2-7-1; Winnipeg 6-4-0

Season series: Third of four meetings between these Southeast Division rivals. The first two were played in Carolina, but won by Winnipeg. Blake Wheeler's second goal of the game with 4:54 remaining led the Jets to a 4-3 victory on Feb. 21, and Evander Kane had a goal and three assists in a 4-1 triumph on March 26.

Big story: With the calendar about to flip to April and only four weeks remaining in the 2012-13 season, this is as "must-win" as it gets for the Hurricanes. They've dropped eight in a row, and a 60-minute defeat on Saturday would push the Jets eight points ahead in the division.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: When teams are going good, they find ways to win games. The opposite has been holding true for Carolina of late. On Thursday, the Hurricanes were less than six minutes away from the type of come-from-behind win that could have set them back on the right track -- after falling behind 2-0 in Toronto, they rallied on a shorthanded goal by Eric Staal, a power-play goal by Alexander Semin and a go-ahead score from Jordan Staal. But it all came apart as the Maple Leafs scored four times in the final 5:25, including a pair of empty-netters, to hand the Canes a 6-3 defeat.

"It's not a fun way to lose," the younger Staal said. "We battled hard to get up in that game. We have to work harder to get bounces, and I think tonight was honestly one of our best nights of working hard and trying to find a way to win the game. Obviously we didn't come up with the result we were looking for and we have to be better if we want to make a push for the playoffs."

Jets: It was a forgettable evening for Winnipeg on Thursday, as the Jets became the latest victim of the runaway train the Penguins have become during the month of March. Backup Al Montoya gave Ondrej Pavelec a rare night of rest and stopped 39 shots, but the Jets managed only 20 and were blanked by Tomas Vokoun in a 4-0 loss. They now make a quick pit stop back home at the MTS Centre before heading out on a three-game road trip to face the Rangers, Islanders and Canadiens.

"They're a good hockey team. I wouldn't say they're unbeatable. They play a good team game and when we're playing a good team game we are, too," defenseman Zach Bogosian told the Winnipeg Free Press. "I don't accept this. We're professional athletes. We're not going to accept anything but winning."

Who's hot: Jiri Tlusty has three goals against the Jets in the two previous matchups, while Pavelec has won both his starts against the Hurricanes with a 2.02 goals-against average and .942 save percentage.

Injury report: Carolina forward Chad LaRose is day-to-day with flu-like symptoms. Goaltenders Cam Ward (knee) and Dan Ellis (leg) and defensemen Justin Faulk (knee) and Bobby Sanguinetti (upper body) are on injured reserve. … Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart (undisclosed) is likely out of the lineup. Defenseman Zach Redmond (leg) and forwards Anthony Peluso (hand), Jim Slater (upper body) and James Wright (upper body) are on injured reserve.

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