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Jets preparing to face host Hurricanes’ pressure

Dec 4, 2023; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei (76) and Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor (81) go for the puck during the second period at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets just dropped a divisional showdown and now they’ll encounter one of the Eastern Conference’s surging teams.

So it doesn’t figure to be any easier for the Jets when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon at Raleigh, N.C.

“A hard game,” Jets coach Rick Bowness said. “They pressure you all over the ice, and we’re going to have to play a whole lot better (than Thursday).”

The Jets lost 4-1 on Thursday night at Dallas, a result that ended a four-game winning streak and caused them to slip behind the first-place Stars in the Central Division, Winnipeg, however, has four games in hand.

The goal for Winnipeg came from Vladislav Namestnikov, who had gone 12 games without scoring.

“It’s nice to get one,” Namestnikov said. “We still did a lot of good things.”

Bowness said there were “self-inflicted problems” in the Dallas game.

The Hurricanes are coming off Thursday night’s 4-2 victory at Columbus, another largely feel-good outing.

“I thought we were good,” defenseman Brady Skjei said. “There were areas where we could have been a little bit better, but for the most part, we knew when we got pucks behind their defense, we’d be successful. I think that showed, we created a lot of chances from behind the goal line. They did a good job of getting in some of our lanes, but the relentless shooting of the puck paid off.”

The Hurricanes closed February by going on a 2-0-1 road trip.

“This may be a little better (than the first two games),” coach Rod Brind’Amour said after the Columbus game. “That’s what you have to do. When you’re not playing your best, you have to find ways to get it done.”

Brind’Amour shifted some lines during the trip, but he said he didn’t sense those moves created a big boost offensively.

Carolina had defenseman Jalen Chatfield back in the lineup Thursday after missing more than a week with an injury.

“He was one of our better players,” Brind’Amour said. “You notice the pace that he was playing at. Cut off a lot of plays in the D-zone, just with his speed. So he was good.”

The Jets could be without forward Gabe Vilardi, whose upper-body ailment reduced his ice time in the Dallas game. Bowness said there are concerns about Vilardi’s availability this weekend.

With Vilardi watching in the third period, Namestnikov took time on the top line alongside Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele.

“I’m ready to play wherever they need me,” Namestnikov said. “It’s nice playing with two offensive-minded players.”

So adjustments on the first line could be in the works for the Carolina game.

“We can put Vladi anywhere and he’s smart and fast enough to keep up with those guys,” Bowness said of Namestnikov.

The Jets won an earlier meeting with the Hurricanes, capturing a 2-1 victory on Dec. 4. Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers had goals for the Jets, while Martin Necas scored for Carolina in that game. Winnipeg goalie Laurent Brossoit stopped 42 shots that night.

Carolina plays five of its first six games in March at home.

–Field Level Media

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