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Hurricanes aim to slow down Jets

8:14 AM, Feb 4, 2014   |    comments
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(SportsNetwork.com) - The Carolina Hurricanes could have Cam Ward in net for the first time in 2014 on Tuesday, as the goaltender's team shoots for its sixth win in seven games when the 'Canes host the Winnipeg Jets at PNC Arena.

The Hurricanes are 5-1-0 over their past six games and the club managed to post a 10-4-0 record in January despite Ward missing the entire month due to a lower-body injury. The club's No. 1 netminder last played for Carolina on Dec. 31 when he earned a home win over the Montreal Canadiens.

Ward recently completed a conditioning stint with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League, going 1-1 with a 2.02 goals against average with Carolina's AHL affiliate.

It's unclear if Ward, who is 6-7-5 with a 3.15 GAA and .895 save percentage this season, will start on Tuesday or if Anton Khudobin gets the call again. Khudobin, who was named the NHL's First Star for January, has started 13 of Carolina's last 14 games and he is 5-1-0 over his past six appearances. All told, the Russian netminder was 10-4-0 with a 2.19 GAA and .927 save percentage in January.

Carolina had a four-game winning streak snapped last Tuesday in Montreal, but the Hurricanes rebounded from that 3-0 setback with Friday's 3-1 home victory against St. Louis. Jeff Skinner recorded the deciding goal early in the second period and Khudobin stopped 27 pucks for the win.

Skinner, who leads Carolina with 23 goals this season, scored just his second goal of the last 10 games.

Nathan Gerbe and Alexander Semin also tallied for the Hurricanes.

"Right from the get go I thought our guys were focused," said Carolina head coach Kirk Muller.

The 'Canes enter Tuesday with 59 points, leaving them three points behind final playoff spot in the East. Carolina is also only three points in back of Philadelphia and Columbus for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

This evening's test is the second tilt on a four-game homestand that will cap Carolina's pre-Olympic break schedule. The Hurricanes are 14-10-5 as the host this season.

Winnipeg enters Monday's contest on a two-game win streak and the club is 8-2-0 since hiring head coach Paul Maurice to take over for the fired Claude Noel. The surge has the Jets sitting only four points out of a playoff spot in the West.

Maurice, of course, coached the Hurricanes during two separate stints from 1997-2004 and again from 2008-12. He led Carolina to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002, when they to the Detroit Red Wings.

The Jets picked up a 2-1 win Sunday afternoon in Montreal, as they kicked off a four-game road trip on a positive note. Michael Frolik scored the winner in the third period and Al Montoya made 30 saves to help Winnipeg pick up its fourth win in five games.

"I made the first save and our guys were there to battle," said Montoya. "Any guy in front of the net, you mind him and take care of business."

Tobias Enstrom scored the other goal for the Jets, who will visit Washington on Thursday before playing their final game before the Olympic break Saturday in St. Louis.

This evening's tilt is the first of two scheduled encounters between the Jets and Hurricanes in 2013-14, as the former Southeast Division rivals are now in different conferences thanks to realignment. Winnipeg went 3-1-0 against Carolina in last season's series and the Jets have won four of five and seven of the past 10 in this matchup.

The Jets also have claimed three in a row and four of their past five in Raleigh.

The Sports Network

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