It has been more than a month and the Carolina Hurricanes have traveled thousands of miles since they last encountered the Winnipeg Jets.
Not that the Jets have been completely out of mind.
The Canes opened the season in Winnipeg on Oct. 13 and appeared on their way to a complete-game victory with 15 minutes left in regulation, leading 4-1. But Jets captain Blake Wheeler scored shorthanded, rookie Patrik Laine scored on the power play, the MTS Centre began to rumble and the Jets rallied to win in overtime 5-4.
Just one game, one loss, but the Canes’ six-game road trip to begin the season started sourly. Now, more than a month and 15 games later, the two teams face off again Sunday at PNC Arena.
“The first game, a lot of it went the way we wanted,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “There’s a big segment of that game that was real good. So we’ve just got to clean up some details.
“We’re a different team and they’re a different team. That was our first game of the year and we’re a much different team now, and they’re a good team, too, playing quick. We look forward to playing them again and we should have a little bit of revenge on our mind.”
-- The Canes (6-6-4) are after a fourth straight victory to end their five-game homestand while the Jets (9-9-2) have lost their past two after a 4-1 loss Saturday at Boston in the second game of a five-game road trip.
Jets coach Paul Maurice, no stranger to Raleigh or PNC Arena, accepted all of the blame for his team’s poor performance against the Bruins, telling the Winnipeg media, “That team wasn’t prepared to play and that’s on me. We’ve got to answer for this with our effort and our mental preparation. I’ve got to find a way to get that hockey club ready.”
The Jets were 4-6-1 after an overtime loss on the road Nov. 3 against the Washington Capitals, but then went 5-1-2 in an eight-game stretch that ended with a 4-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. But the road trip began with a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, then the 4-1 loss to Boston.
— Peters switched up the lines Friday in the Canes’ 3-2 comeback win over Montreal, putting Jeff Skinner on Jordan Staal’s line with Sebastian Aho and moving Teuvo Teravainen off the Staal line to play with Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm. That’s the way the lines looked again Saturday at the Canes’ practice.
Center Jay McClement and wingers Joakim Nordstrom and Brock McGinn were not used in the third period against the Canadiens as Peters shortened the bench and went with three lines.
“It’s not a recipe we want to use on a consistent basis and it’s not one that’s going to lend itself to long-term success,” Peters said of using three lines.
Peters said there would be no lineup changes for the Jets, meaning Andrej Nestrasil, Ryan Murphy and Klas Dahlbeck again would be scratches.
Cam Ward will start his sixth straight game in net, having gone 4-1-2 in his last seven games and allowing 12 goals in that span.
-- After Sunday’s game, the Canes will play the next three games in Canada — against Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa — and nine of the next 11 on the road. But first, the Jets.
Defenseman Brett Pesce smiled Saturday when asked if he recalled much about the season opener.
“Yep. We were up big and lost the lead,” he said.
And Sunday’s game?
“It’s a big one for sure, for carrying some momentum into the road trip,” Pesce said.