The Winnipeg Jets will welcome the Carolina Hurricanes with open arms tomorrow night at MTS Centre.
And why wouldn't they? The Hurricanes have won just two of their last 17 games and have free fallen out of first place in the Southeast Division. They are second-last in the Eastern Conference, just four points ahead of the Florida Panthers.
The Hurricanes started sinking when Cam Ward went down with a knee injury, while the Jets have been flying high of late in their pursuit of a playoff berth. Winnipeg has won four in a row for the first time since December 2011 after Tuesday’s 4-3 shutout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Jets (22-19-2) are tied with the New York Rangers for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but the Blueshirts have the edge because they have played one less game.
While the Jets get to play the lowly Hurricanes tomorrow night, the Rangers get the sad-sack Panthers at home.
The Buffalo Sabres can get to within two points of the Jets tonight when they visit Boston for the Bruins’ first game since Monday’s bombings at the marathon, but Winnipeg will still have a game in hand.
Carolina has won only two games since March 12, and one of them was a 3-1 victory over the Jets at MTS Centre on March 30. The Jets have shown the ability lately to not play down to the level of their opponents, and the Hurricanes will test it again tomorrow night.
“The first line is really good,” Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec said. “I’ve watched them a few times on TV, because my friend (Jiri Tlusty) plays there, and they’ve been playing good but they couldn’t score the goals.”
Pavelec often struggles against the Hurricanes for some reason, but he has two wins against them in three tries this season.
Jets head coach Claude Noel said centre Nik Antropov, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury sustained two weeks ago, is unlikely to be back in the lineup tomorrow night.