Can Jets avoid letdown against Hurricanes?

- December 8th, 2011

The Winnipeg Jets get full marks for being able to raise their level of play against some of the NHLs big guns this season, the most recent showing a tidy 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins that was the first regulation loss since Oct. 29 for the defending Stanley Cup champs.

But as the Jets get set to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, the big question is whether the Jets can set the tone against a team that’s not in the upper echelon.

The premise seems odd, but the Jets have already lost twice to the Ottawa Senators this season, twice to the New Jersey Devils and once to the Columbus Blue Jackets — teams that certainly aren’t cannon fodder but can’t exactly parade around like members of the elite right now either.

So the question was posed to a few players on Thursday, is there any concern about a possible letdown?

“Not in our locker room,” said Jets forward Evander Kane. “They might be a team below us in the standings, but you want to keep teams below you, so you have to win those games.

“Anytime you play a division team, it’s a four-point night and those points can come back to bite you. They could go on a seven-game, 10-game winning streak and be right where you are. You have to bare down every game throughout the season.”

“We’ve put together some good games here and we want to keep that rolling,” added Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “It comes down to be strong mentally and making sure we’re still playing the game we need to play to be successful.”

The Jets have already beaten the Hurricanes twice this season, a 5-3 win at MTS Centre on Oct. 22 and a 3-1 triumph at RBC Center on Nov. 25.

What have they seen from the Hurricanes so far?

“I’m pretty familiar with the way they play,” said Ladd, who started his career with the Hurricanes and helped them capture the Stanley Cup in 2006. “For them, it starts in the net. They have a great goaltender and guys up front that can put the puck in the net. But it’s more about us and the way that we play. If we do that, we’ll be fine.

“They’ve played us tough,” added Jets forward Kyle Wellwood. “Skinner has been their top guy and if (Eric) Staal gets going, they’re going to be a lot more dangerous. We’re just looking to stop their top guys and play a good team game.”

It should be noted the Hurricanes recently replaced Paul Maurice with Kirk Muller and have gone 1-4 since making the change.

However, the lone win came Wednesday night, a 5-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers that saw goalie Cam Ward bounce back and the power play strike for two goals.

The Jets will start Chris Mason in goal and might get centre Nik Antropov back after he missed the past three games with an injury.

For the inquiring minds, the Jets are 7-2-1 since snapping a five-game winless streak.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are 4-8-2 on the road this season and 1-5-1 against teams in the Southeast Division.

Jets head coach Claude Noel was asked if a win on Friday was required to make this a successful homestand?

“I haven’t looked at it that way,” said Noel, whose club is 3-1 so far. “The homestand has been good. You just don’t want to stop. It’s not only the homestand, it’s winning. You want to continue winning. We’re getting close to the (playoff) line and you want to keep going.”

Categories: Hockey

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