The Carolina Hurricanes' longest losing streak of the season has knocked them out of first place in the Southeast Division. On Tuesday evening they'll try to make up some ground against the current resident of that coveted spot, the Winnipeg Jets.
The Hurricanes are 0-4-1 in their last five games and have fallen four points behind the Jets in the division standings. With 32 points, Carolina is currently on the outside of the playoff picture in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one back of the New York Rangers but only one ahead of both the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders.
A regulation loss would knock the Hurricanes even further down in the standings as the Caps and Islanders play each other on Tuesday, with one team guaranteed two points.
Carolina has been idle since last Thursday's 4-1 loss to the visiting New Jersey Devils, which got a first-period goal from netminder Martin Brodeur.
With Dan Ellis on the bench due to a delayed call on the Devils, 'Canes forward Jordan Staal sent a pass back to the left point that missed the mark and banked off the boards before trickling down the length of the ice and into the vacated net.
Jeff Skinner had Carolina's goal and Dan Ellis was charged with all four goals on 22 shots for the Hurricanes, who are on their longest slide since going 0-6-1 from Nov. 23-Dec. 6 of last season. They have lost the first two of a three-game homestand.
"We just need a little bit more battle, little bit more compete level," Skinner said of his team's struggles. "I think once you get that work level up, the execution will come."
Already without No. 1 goaltender Cam Ward because of a knee injury that is expected to sideline him for the rest of the regular season, Ellis skated off late in the third period due to a cut on his knee and was replaced for the final 51 seconds by Justin Peters.
Ellis could miss a week of action due to the laceration, meaning Peters will be called on to fill the void.
"He's confident, and he's excited," Carolina coach Kirk Muller told his team's website of Peters. "The two things I love about him is his competitive edge that he wants to be in net. He's not looking at this going, 'Wow, how did I get here in this position?' He wants to be in net (Tuesday). And secondly, the guys love playing in front of him."
Two guys who could be in front of Peters are forward Chad LaRose (concussion) and defenseman Joe Corvo (lower body), who both practiced in full on Monday. LaRose has not played since March 2, while Corvo has missed the last three games.
Winnipeg will try to prevent Carolina from inching closer in the standings after snapping a two-game slide with Sunday's 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Jets had lost three of their previous four, including back-to-back losses to the Washington Capitals by a 10-1 margin.
"Every game is big," said forward Bryan Little, who had a goal and two assists. "Those were big losses against Washington, but it was a big win tonight. Now we're on to the next big game."
Tobias Enstrom had the deciding tally in the second period and Dustin Byfuglien also scored. Blake Wheeler added two assists and Ondrej Pavelec made 23 saves.
"It's nice to stop the slide and get back in the win column," said forward Andrew Ladd. "Everyone knows what's going on and how tight the race is. We need to be winning hockey games right now."
The Jets played without blueliners Mark Stuart (undisclosed) and Ron Hainsey (upper body) on Sunday and the two are questionable for Tuesday's game, which begins a span of two straight and five of six on the road. Winnipeg is 9-6-2 as the visiting club this season.
The Jets have won five of their past seven versus the Hurricanes, taking the first of four meetings this season 4-3 in Carolina on Feb. 21. Wheeler scored twice, including the game-winner with less than five minutes left to play.
The Winnipeg franchise has won four of its past five in Carolina and will host the Hurricanes on Saturday after a road tilt in Pittsburgh on Thursday. The 'Canes are in Toronto that day.