March 30, 2012
Jets battle elimination, Hurricanes
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
RALEIGH, N.C. - The Winnipeg Jets will attempt to avoid being officially eliminated from the playoff chase on Friday night when they battle the Carolina Hurricanes at newly named PNC Arena.
If the Jets (35-34-8) lose and the Buffalo Sabres pick up at least a point against the Pittsburgh Penguins at home, Winnipeg will be officially eliminated from playoff contention in its first season back in Manitoba. The Hurricanes, who are a point back of the Jets, face the same predicament.
Jets goalie Chris Mason will get his first start since Feb. 25, and he’s 3-1 against the Hurricanes this season.
“It’s been a while for me, so I’m not really focused on the opponent as much as I am just trying to be a little more relaxed and try to stay patient,” Mason said. “It’s tough when you haven’t been in there for a while. So hopefully the Carolina thing has something to do with it.”
Up front, head coach Claude Noel is mixing up his lines a bit as Nik Antropov returns to the lineup after missing five games with a lower-body injury. The big Kazakh will play between Kyle Wellwood and Tim Stapleton, Antti Miettinen will join Alex Burmistrov and Evander Kane, and the red-hot Spencer Machacek will play with Jim Slater and Tanner Glass on the checking line.
Chris Thorburn, who will miss his ninth game with a leg injury, could be back in the lineup on Saturday night when the Jets visit the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Meanwhile, Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian will face the Hurricanes for the first time since he received a charging major and a game misconduct for his hit on Andreas Nodl on March 18 at MTS Centre. Bogosian didn’t face any supplementary discipline from the NHL as a result of the hit, but he’s not sure if the Hurricanes won’t want to dish out some of their own on Friday.
“Any time you play against a team you’ve had a questionable hit against … I’m sure they’re competitive people over there just as we are and you’re going to stick up for your teammates,” Bogosian said. “So I’m not sure what’ll happen.”
Nodl is still out of the lineup because of the hit, but Hurricanes captain Eric Staal said revenge won’t be on his team’s mind against Bogosian and the Jets.
“It was the right call on the ice,” Staal said. “You never want to see that happen to a teammate, and he took some good strides and left his feet. I mean, he didn’t leave his feet at the time, but he left his feet.
“They obviously felt the call on the ice was enough. Andreas is still out. He’s not back to a hundred percent. We’re teammates of him, and you never want to see that happen, but we’re not out for retribution or anything tonight, I don’t think.”
The Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets are the two worst teams in the NHL over the last 10 games with 3-7 records, so Noel wants to see his troops return to better form after two games of disappointing play that followed the acknowledgement that the playoffs wouldn’t be happening this season.
“There’s a lot of things we’re looking for,” he said. “We’re looking to win games and get some joy back in our life. The last couple home games have been a sense of … lack of accomplishment or failure in trying to get games on the winning side of things and getting the playoff hopes going.
“We’ve gotta overcome that, and that’s one of the things we talked about yesterday with the team is it’s time to get back to work. We’re all disappointed. We’re all mired in this pool of disappointment. It’s just time to get back to get going again.
“We’re 3-7 in our last 10 games. We were hoping to take a run at it, and we took more of a drop at it. We’re the worst team in the league our last 10 games. Not real good.”