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Hurricanes-Jets Preview

AP - Sports

Strong play at home continues to be a major reason why the Winnipeg Jets remain in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Jets look to match a season high with a fifth consecutive home victory Sunday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.

With a 23-10-4 record at the MTS Centre, Winnipeg (34-29-8) is among the best home teams in the league. The Jets' solid play in the NHL's return to Winnipeg has made up for their dismal 11-19-4 road mark and helped keep the club in playoff contention.

Dustin Byfuglien scored the winner midway through the third period Friday after an earlier assist to help the Jets win their second in a row, 3-2 over Washington. The rabid home crowd might have helped Winnipeg move within two points of the Capitals, owners of the eighth and final playoff spot.

"It was intense," said Andrew Ladd, who scored his 24th goal. "The way we play in here, we make it tough on teams. I don't know if it's coincidence or not but I think teams know it's a tough place to play."

After Sunday, however, the Jets play seven of their final 10 games on the road. They hope to make the most of every potential advantage they might have, especially at home.

"This is kind of our playoffs right now anyway," said Ladd, who has four goals in the last three home games. "It's do or die. We've got to keep winning games."

Winnipeg won its first three versus Carolina (28-29-15) this season before falling 2-1 on the road Jan. 23. The Jets went 4 of 10 on the power play while outscoring the Hurricanes 9-5 in two wins at the MTS Centre.

Though Winnipeg was 0 for 5 with the man advantage Friday, its 24.0 percent conversion rate on the power play at home is the best in the NHL.

Evander Kane, who has nine goals and nine assists in his last 13 games, scored in each of the three wins over Carolina this season. Byfuglien had a goal and an assist during a 4-2 victory Dec. 9 in the teams' last meeting in Winnipeg.

Ondrej Pavelec has a 1.25 goals-against average during the Jets' four-game home winning streak, but he's started only once against the Hurricanes this season, getting pulled after allowing two goals on five shots. Backup Chris Mason has not played since Feb. 25, but is 3-1-0 with a 1.56 GAA versus Carolina in 2011-12.

One of those goalies will try to keep the Hurricanes from matching a season high with a third straight win. Tim Brent and Brandon Sutter scored in a 48-second span Saturday as Carolina rallied for three third-period goals and a 5-3 win at Minnesota.

Drayson Bowman had two goals and an assist for the Hurricanes, who are five points behind the Jets.

"The team seems to find a way - whether it's a good game or not - to find a tie or a win," coach Kirk Muller said. "That's what's important this time of the year."

Bowman has scored three of his five goals in the last three games.

Carolina will be without star Jeff Skinner, who is finishing his two-game suspension for kicking St. Louis' Scott Nichol during Thursday's 2-0 win. The reigning Calder Trophy winner has 20 goals and 21 assists in 55 games this season.

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