Hurricanes aim to continue ascent vs. Jets

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes have poked their heads back above the playoff line in the Eastern Conference.

It’s an evolving situation for the Hurricanes, who’ve shown they won’t be going away after a recent downturn.

“I think our guys are committed to seeing where we can get to,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said.

The Hurricanes take on the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night at PNC Arena.

Carolina has won two in a row following a six-game losing streak. The Hurricanes are 2-0-0 since center Jordan Staal returned from a three-game absence because of the death of his infant daughter.

“He’s such a big impact player,” goalie Cam Ward said.

The Jets have won three of their past four games. Most recently, they topped the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 on Friday night in the first game with newly acquired center Paul Stastny on the ice with them since arriving in a trade from the St. Louis Blues.

“You come in here and you want to just be seamless,” Stastny said of the transition to a new team.

Sunday night’s assignment marks the first contest of Winnipeg’s season-long six-game road trip.

“You’ve got to be careful (thinking) because you’re sitting close to the top that these games are going to be easy,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice, who has had two stints as coach of the Hurricanes.

Maurice said Stastny will be a key component, particularly on late-game faceoffs.

A bulk of production recently for Winnipeg has come from right winger Patrik Laine, who has a seven-game point streak. He posted multiple points in six of those games, including a pair of goals Friday night.

“He’s skating,” Maurice said. “He’s driving harder … because of that, his timing is better.”

The Hurricanes will try to stop Laine and others with Ward, who will receive his third start in four nights.

“I don’t think he has been overworked, so we could go with him,” Peters said. “He made some big saves when he needed to (Friday) and was a calming influence on our guys.”

Carolina has notched at least one team point in nine of Ward’s last 12 starts.

“It’s crunch time, obviously,” Ward said. “We’re in this together. We’re in the fight. We’ve got to string some wins together.”

Part of some recent success for the Hurricanes has come when they’ve been more active on offense. They’ve registered at least 30 shots in 12 of their last 16 games.

Peters said he continues to preach being around the net.

“You’ve got to get in on the inside,” he said.

Carolina center Derek Ryan said the past two games against Philadelphia and New Jersey were blueprints on how to operate at this time of the season.

“We haven’t spent a whole lot of time in the defensive zone,” Ryan said. “When we do, we’re efficient and we get out really fast.”

Carolina players noted some tough ice to deal with in Friday night’s game. There was another arena changeover for a college basketball Saturday night.

In the first meeting, Carolina lost 2-1 at Winnipeg in its third game of the season.