Data says Jets should cruise past 'Canes

Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets keeps his eye on the puck as it flies through the air during a...

Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets keeps his eye on the puck as it flies through the air during a game against the Washington Capitals. (Marianne Helm/Getty Images/AFP)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:45 PM ET

If fans got to see what the Jets were made of Friday night when they edged the Washington Capitals, they'll get another glimpse at the team's mental makeup on Sunday.

The Carolina Hurricanes are coming to town, and all the data suggests the Jets should have no problem cruising to victory.

They have won four in a row at home and will tie a season-high winning streak at the downtown arena if they emerge victorious.

They dominate teams that play the day before taking to the ice in Winnipeg.

They have the backing in 15,004 rambunctious fans.

And just because they're not chasing the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference doesn't mean it's not a huge game. They're all big when there are only 11 to go, so motivation shouldn't be a problem.

The Jets appear to be channeling that motivation well. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec reported no atmosphere change in the Jets dressing room just prior to taking the ice before Friday's clash against the Capitals.

"It was the same thing," Pavelec said. "For me and the guys it was another game. Of course it's in your head that it's probably the huge one. It's different to be two points out of the playoffs than six. So it's a huge difference, but you're not going to prepare differently.

"It would be a big mistake if we changed something."

Perhaps it's the comfort of playing at home, where they sport a stellar record of 23-10-4, but the Jets have not looked any different at MTS Centre for the last four days than they have for much of the season. They come out flying, they take the body, and more often than not they take the early lead.

If the pressure of trying to please a million Manitoba hockey fanatics is getting to them, they're not letting it show. Winger Kyle Wellwood missed the playoffs by a combined three points in back-to-back years with the Leafs, the second instance occurring when the New York Islanders won in a shootout on the final day of the 2006-07 season. He said the Jets are getting solid contributions from everyone throughout the lineup, which the seven-year veteran views as an encouraging sign as they press to get back into a playoff position. They enter Sunday's contest two points back of the eighth-place Capitals, who play in Chicago on Sunday night.

"The guys have played pretty well, especially after about the 20-game mark of the season. Guys started to gel a little better together," Wellwood said. "We haven't played the best on the road, but we've had a lot of energy at home and we've been winning games at home by playing good hockey. Down the stretch it gives us a good chance because we've played pretty good hockey.

"You want to make sure you win (Sunday's) game, and then when the road comes you try to fix it on the go."

The Hurricanes scored four unanswered goals on Saturday afternoon in St. Paul, Minn., to down the Minnesota Wild 5-3 and get to within five points of the Jets. Winnipeg, however, is 9-0-1 this season when hosting a team that played the day before. Carolina's saving grace might be the fact their game against the Wild was a 1 p.m. start.

"They're going to have some rest, but like we jumped on Dallas we have to do the same thing and take advantage of them playing back-to-back," Pavelec said.

If the Jets can do that, the boundless enthusiasm that seems to be enveloping the province will only increase.

If they can't, it will be the worst possible note on which to begin a road trip that will take them to Pittsburgh, Washington and Nashville.

No pressure.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/PentonKirk


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