The Carolina Hurricanes and Winnipeg Jets have staked claims as serious playoff contenters with strong play recently.
Carolina will be looking to continue rolling after its best month in nearly five years on Tuesday night against the visiting Jets, who are surging under the coach that led the Hurricanes to their last postseason appearance.
The Hurricanes (25-20-9) have won five of six and went 10-4-0 in January, their first 10-win month since March 2009. They were led to the playoffs that season by Paul Maurice, who has coached Winnipeg to an 8-2-0 record since taking over for Claude Noel on Jan. 12.
In addition to being just behind the pace for a wild-card spot, Carolina is also within striking distance of a top-three spot in the Metropolitan Division.
"We wanted to pick up points where we could. As an overall game, regardless of our record, it was a good month with some consistent hockey and a lot of hockey, at times," Eric Staal, who had four goals and seven assists and was a plus-7 in January, told the team's website. "It's something we need to build on and follow up."
The Hurricanes will end their pre-Olympic schedule with a four-game homestand, which they opened with a 3-1 victory over St. Louis on Friday. Anton Khudobin, who started all but one of Carolina's contests in January, made 11 of his 27 saves in the third period.
"We want to have a good feeling going into the break and we want to sort of build off this win," said Jeff Skinner, who scored the go-ahead goal in the second period.
Since dumping Noel following a season-long five game skid, the Jets (27-25-5) appear much improved under Maurice and have won four of five away from home. They're averaging 3.3 goals while allowing 2.1 per game during an 8-2-0 stretch after previously averaging 2.6 while surrendering 3.0 per contest.
"We've made some pretty big strides," said Maurice, who was fired by Carolina after starting 8-13-4 in 2011-12. "There's still a lot to cover. It's what we want our team to look like. We want to define what the Winnipeg Jets' game is. That's going to take a long time to do."
Michael Frolik scored the winner 1:04 into the third of a 2-1 victory at Montreal on Sunday. Blake Wheeler assisted on Tobias Enstrom's second-period goal for his 12th point in 10 games.
Third-leading goal scorer Evander Kane missed his third straight contest due to an infection in his hand and is not expected to return before the Olympic break.
The Hurricanes recalled goaltender Cam Ward on Sunday after he completed two starts for AHL Charlotte on a conditioning stint. He hasn't played since Dec. 31 due to a lower-body injury, though it's not clear who will start in net Tuesday.
Carolina's Alexander Semin had eight goals and five assists in 14 January games after tallying 24 points over his first 38 contests. He has nine goals and nine assists in his last 16 games against the Jets franchise.
Winnipeg has won four of five in the series, including three in a row at Carolina.