Preview: Winnipeg Jets look to maintain altitude above the Carolina Hurricanes

James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE

Despite trailing the Jets by four points for the Southeast Division lead, the Hurricanes have three games in hand on the Winnipeg squad which makes tonight's game incredibly important if the Jets are to win the division.

Game Preview:

Perhaps it's a good time to get out of Winnipeg and get on the road.

Despite going 2-2 on their recent home-stand, the .500 record is quite flattering as the Winnipeg Jets were pretty much awful this past week at the MTS Centre. They were outplayed for about 59 minutes of the Boston game only to score two quick goals in a minute and shock the Bruins, and they barely managed to beat a horrendous Lightning squad without a head-coach or an NHL roster. And those Capitals games? Well, let's just say that the boo-birds had it right...

But that's all in the past, and tonight they begin their two-game road trip with a visit to Raleigh for a massive showdown with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes are only 4 points back of the Jets and have 3(!) games in hand, and will obviously still have 3 games after tonight, so it's obvious that tonight's game is of incredible importance. A clean win would put the good guys 6 points clear, but a regulation loss? Well, you can do the math.

The Hurricanes haven't played since last Thursday so it will be interesting to see how they come out of the gate this evening. It would behoove the Jets to come out strong and take advantage of a team that hasn't played in 5 days. And with no Cam Ward or Dan Ellis tonight, look for Justin Peters to get the call, which in theory should benefit the Jets.

Puck drop is at 6:00 CST at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC.

Keys to the Game:

Winnipeg Jets

  • Get a fast start: The Hurricanes have been sitting around for nearly a week, so they might be a little rusty when the puck drops. A fast start by the Jets would certainly help, as their record when scoring first is very solid (11-4-1).
  • Get lots of shots on net: As mentioned above, the Canes will be sending out their 3rd-string netminder with Ward and Ellis on the shelf. Justin Peters has only played 33 games in his career, and is 13-13-3 with a 3.17 GAA and 0.901 save percentage.
  • Don't get hurt on the blue-line: The Jets are super shallow on the depth chart as is, and have just played with their top-3 of Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian for the first time all season. With Ron Hainsey and Mark Stuart likely game-time decisions, we could potentially have the original top-6 back together. SO DON'T GET HURT!

Carolina Hurricanes

  • Defend home ice: The Hurricanes have not had a very good season at home, as their 7-8-0 record is one of only 3 in the Eastern Conference that is below 0.500. If they are to chase down the Jets for first in the SE Division, their home record will have to improve.
  • Use some "Staal" tactics: Eric Staal leads the team in scoring with 14-21-35 and +19, while brother Jordan is 4th in scoring with 7-13-20 and -6. That's a pretty good family act.
  • Overcome adversity: With both their starter and backup hurt, as well as d-men Justin Faulk and Bobby Sanguinetti on the IR, the Canes are a hurting unit from the blue-line and in. A team effort will be needed to shelter these losses.

Player to Boo Mercilessly:

Jordan Staal. Because "Eric's Better".

Prediction:

Winnipeg 3

Carolina 2 (OT) - F

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