Southeast: Jets need success away from home to earn playoff berth

By Cory Lavalette

Photo: Goaltender Ondrej Pavalec and his Winnipeg Jets teammates suffered a rare home loss on Sunday night, making their coming road trip even more important to their playoff chances (courtesy of

Terry Lee/Icon SMI)

Following Sunday’s 4-3 home loss to Carolina, the Jets hit the road for a critical three games away from the MTS Centre. For as good as Winnipeg has been at home (23-11-34), they have been equally bad on the road (11-19-4). And it doesn’t help that they face three tough opponents.

The trip kicks off Tuesday in Pittsburgh with a game against the red-hot Penguins, who are on a 12-game point streak (11-0-1). The Jets then travel to Washington for the second straight Friday game between the two division rivals. Finally, they are in Nashville the next night to take on the Predators, who could have a returning Alexander Radulov by then.

With two points separating the Jets and Capitals for the final playoff spot, Friday’s game is pivotal to the postseason race. The Jets topped the Capitals, 3-2, on March 16, and with Florida building a cushion for the division lead, the eighth spot looks like it will come down to three teams: Winnipeg Washington and Buffalo.

Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes still believe they can reach the postseason, and with three straight wins (at home over St. Louis, then on the road at Minnesota and Winnipeg) their confidence is building. But with five points to gain on the Capitals and two other teams to climb over, Carolina may need to win out to have a realistic shot, especially since all three of those teams hold a game in hand on the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes face Southeast leader Florida at home Wednesday — a season series dominated by the Panthers, with Carolina only earning two loser points in those outings — then has back-to-back road games in the Central Division, facing cellar dweller Columbus Friday followed by a game in Detroit Saturday.

Florida Panthers
Having widened their division lead to five points, the Panthers have now set their sights on the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed. Floundering Boston is just two points ahead of Florida, but the Senators have also entered the picture with 84 points (one less than Boston, one more than Florida). For the most part, the Panthers’ schedule is favorable this week. Their toughest game on paper comes first when Philadelphia — 8-1-1 in their last 10 — hosts them Tuesday. Then the Panthers head to Carolina Wednesday trying to snuff out the Hurricanes’ slim playoff hopes. But the week closes out with home games against the NHL’s bottom two teams: Edmonton visits Friday, followed by the Islanders Sunday.

Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning could make a final push this week with three games at home. First, they host Buffalo Monday looking to gain ground on a team in front of them in the standings. They then host the Oilers and Islanders on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, for two games they should be favored to win. With seven points to make up and five teams to climb over, the Lightning’s chances seem slim. But like Carolina, Tampa Bay still has a mathematical chance.

Washington Capitals
The Capitals up-and-down stretch run has hit another lull with back-to-back losses following a four-game winning streak. It won’t be easy this week for Washington with road games at Detroit — one of the NHL’s best home teams — on Monday and at Philadelphia — who is as hot as any team in the league — on Thursday. Then comes the pivotal home game vs. Winnipeg Friday, followed by wrapping up the week Sunday with visiting Minnesota.