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23-19-2

Hurricanes-Jets Preview

AP - Sports

Andrew Ladd has been at the center of the Winnipeg Jets' playoff push.

Another big effort by the captain could help end one of his former team's postseason chances.

Ladd and the Jets will try to extend their season-best winning streak to five Thursday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.

With team highs of four goals and eight points during the win streak, Ladd is doing all he can to help secure the franchise's second playoff appearance and first since 2007 when it was based in Atlanta.

Winnipeg (22-19-2), which last won five straight during a six-game run Nov. 19-30, 2010, is tied with the New York Rangers for eighth in the Eastern Conference with 46 points. The Rangers, though, have a game in hand.

The Jets are also within four points of Washington for the Southeast Division lead, and those clubs face off once more - Tuesday in the nation's capital.

Ladd had two goals Tuesday and scored in the shootout to give Winnipeg a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay.

"He's our leader in the dressing room and he leads us on the ice," said Bryan Little, who assisted on Ladd's first goal and has seven points over the past four games. "He really took tonight serious. He went out there and put us on his back and he did a great job.

"When he's going, I think he's one of the better players in the league."

The Hurricanes felt the same way about Ladd when they drafted him fourth overall in 2004. He played in 17 of the team's 25 postseason contests during its run to the Stanley Cup finals as a rookie in 2006 but would get traded to Chicago two years later.

Carolina (17-23-2) has been back to the postseason just once since then - losing to Pittsburgh in the 2009 East finals - and is on the verge of being ousted from playoff contention this season. If they fail to secure a point and either Winnipeg or New York picks up one Wednesday, the Hurricanes will be officially eliminated.

They're in this position due to a 2-14-1 skid, though one of those victories was a 3-1 win at Winnipeg on March 30. The other was a 4-2 victory over Boston on Saturday, but Carolina followed that with Tuesday's 3-2 defeat in Ottawa.

However, the team showed some fight in the latest loss. After Jeff Skinner was knocked out of the game on a hit by Jared Cowen, the Hurricanes came to the defense of their teammate. Chad LaRose and Kevin Westgarth both fought the Senators defenseman.

"If you mess with one of us you get all of us," Westgarth said. "That's where we are right now and it's a really important thing for a hockey club and it's good to see.

"We would have liked to have beaten them down on the scoreboard, too, but unfortunately we weren't able to get it done."

Due to the hit, Skinner will not be available Thursday when the Hurricanes try to end a four-game skid outside Raleigh that started following last month's victory at Winnipeg.

That was the second of a season-worst five straight defeats for the Jets. They netted six goals during that slide but have since outscored opponents 18-7 through four games of a six-game homestand.

The Jets' last five-game home winning streak spanned Dec. 1-13, 2011.

Ladd has four goals and four assists in nine games in Raleigh since leaving the Hurricanes, winning five of his last six visits.

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