After going without a point on their homestand, the Winnipeg Jets kicked off their longest road trip of the season with a much-needed win.
They'll look to build on that result as they continue the five-game trek Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, who are hoping to have Jeff Skinner available as these Southeast Division rivals square off for the first time.
The Jets (6-8-1) gave up three goals in each game during an 0-3-0 homestand before pulling out a 2-1 victory at Buffalo on Tuesday. Andrew Ladd scored his team-leading eighth goal and Bryan Little added his third as Winnipeg improved to 5-0-1 when surrendering two goals or fewer.
"The first thing that it does when you win is it brings joy back in your life, which we all welcome because it's been miserable enough for a while," coach Claude Noel told the league's official website. "We didn't want to go down the same path we've been for the more-than-enough times I'd like to think about."
Ondrej Pavelec, who had gone 1-7-0 with a 3.72 goals-against average in his previous eight appearances before Tuesday, made 29 saves to earn his fourth victory.
"Pavelec was outstanding in this game, he really helped us win," Noel added. "He made some key saves, he was big in the net, he was really focused and I thought he was outstanding which is the way we know he's capable of playing."
Pavelec hasn't been very sharp against the Hurricanes over the course of his career, going 3-6-2 with a 4.04 GAA. He's given up at least four goals in eight of 12 starts in this series.
The Jets, though, have compiled a 6-1-2 record in the club's last nine visits to Raleigh.
The Hurricanes (8-5-1) had averaged 3.8 goals during a 5-0-1 stretch before failing to get anything going in Monday's 3-0 loss at Montreal. Carolina, which was limited to a season-low 19 shots, was without Skinner (upper body) as well as defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason due to lower-body injuries.
"We just couldn't find that next gear that we've been playing with for a while," coach Kirk Muller said. "We just didn't have it from the start.
"We're missing some key guys. In a tight game like tonight, Skinner is a game-breaker type of player. But you're going to have injuries, everyone's going to go through it, and you have to find a way to win."
Skinner, Pitkanen and Gleason each have a chance to suit up Thursday. Skinner, who has 14 points in 13 games, has notched four goals and seven assists in his last nine against Winnipeg.
Cam Ward stopped 23 of 26 shots Monday in his sixth consecutive road start. The veteran has allowed 11 goals while going 1-2-0 at home.
Ward is 21-10-4 versus the Winnipeg franchise - his most wins against any team - despite a lackluster 2.96 GAA. If in goal, he'll face a Jets attack that's scored two goals or fewer in each of its last six games while going a combined 0 for 13 on the power play.
Winnipeg has killed an NHL-low 68.1 percent of its opponents' chances on the man advantage, but it's yielded just four goals on 20 opportunities over its last seven games. The Jets held the Sabres scoreless on three chances Tuesday.
"Our penalty kill has been actually really good (of late)," said Ladd, who spent the first two-plus seasons of his career with Carolina. "We've kind of turned that around lately and it's been a big thing and it's going to be a big thing going forward."
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