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Jets need to play better at home

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WINNIPEG — The hard part may be out of the way — 15 road games are in the books and the Winnipeg Jets now have 14 of their remaining 23 contests at home.

Or was that the hard part?

You’d wonder, because the Jets so far have gathered 18 points from road games and a league-worst eight at home as they prepare to meet the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the MTS Centre (7 p.m., TSNJets, TSN1290).

Winnipeg has just finished what many considered its most-demanding stretch of schedule for 2013, nine games out of 11 away from home. The Jets were 7-3-1 in that time, remaining close to the playoff line in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, just two points back of the eighth-place New York Rangers.

But a 4-6-0 home record entering tonight’s game?

"We’ve sort of flip-flopped a little from last year, taking care of all the things that were trouble for us last year," Wheeler said after this morning’s game-day skate at the MTS Centre. "Now this year, I guess that’s a good thing because we’ve proven that we can play tough consistent and tough on the road.

"Now we just need to play better at home. That should be an exciting thing for us, just get our building with a little more electricity in it, get off to a good start and get these fans involved."

Jets winger Evander Kane, who scored his 10th goal of the season in Sunday’s 3-2 shootout loss in New Jersey, said he sees opportunity.

"Coming into the second half of the season, our home record has to be better than it was," Kane said. "We wanted to improve our road record. We seem to have simplified things and in our play at home we’ve kind of gotten away from that a little bit.

"We have to play the way we know how to. With Toronto tonight, they’re a fast-skating team and there’s going to be a lot of pace to this game and we’re going to have to be ready to skate."

Jets coach Claude Noel said the atmosphere at the MTS Centre is no longer taking opponents by surprise.

"We have to do a lot better at home in a lot of ways," Noel said today. "Teams are ready to play in this building. They get motivated. We have to get our fans really involved in the game, especially early. The starts are really important.

"We just have to get them on our side and we have to do that through our play."

On the injury front, forward Anthony Peluso, out with a suspected broken hand, is still week-to-week.

Defenceman Toby Enstrom, Noel said this morning, is just more than a week away from returning. He’s been out since Feb. 17 with an upper-body injury.

Andrew Ladd missed today’s morning skate but Noel said it was just a maintenance day.

Forward Alexander Burmistrov, who was benched for much of the last half of Sunday’s game in New Jersey, will be a gametime decision tonight, Noel added.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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