WINNIPEG -- The Colorado Avalanche will have an opponent with which to commiserate, but they do not expect any sympathy from the Winnipeg Jets.
Like the Jets, the Avalanche (29-26-4) have 62 points and find themselves in a battle to break into the playoff top-eight after winning at Edmonton, 3-1, on Friday night. Sitting in 11th place, the Avalanche sit three points behind the eighth-place Calgary Flames and will also need to overtake the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars.
"It's going to be an exciting game," Colorado coach Joe Sacco predicted. "It should be almost a playoff-type atmosphere."
The Avalanche will welcome back Matt Duchene, who missed 20 games with a knee injury. Duchene has 12 goals in 39 games before suffering the first major injury of his career.
"We're excited to have him back," Sacco said. "It's not going to be the easiest transition when you miss that amount of time, so it's going to take a little bit of time to get his feet well. But we're a team now that has played much better."
"Offensively, we still need more guys contributing," Sacco said of the and Matt helps in that area."
Sacco would like to manage Duchene's minutes on a line with Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk, but admitted that the plan may be subject to change.
"You always say that," Sacco said, "but it never really happens. It just depends on how the game is going and how he is feeling. We'll monitor as we go along. He has looked good in practice. He looks like he has a lot of energy, a lot of jump."
Duchene spent Saturday making sure that he was well-rested for the tonight's game and watched the Calgary-Los Angeles game on Hockey Night in Canada to tire himself out before bed.
"It's great to be back," Duchene said.
Duchene hopes that his play will merit extra ice time in spite of his long lay-off, and Sacco admitted that Duchene's first-line status and role on the Colorado power play will cause his minutes to accumulate quickly.
"It doesn't matter which way you contribute," Duchene said, "as long as you contribute."
While regaining Duchene's services, Colorado will be without Peter Mueller and T.J. Galiardi.
Semyon Varlamov will again start in net for the Avalanche after stopping 26 of 27 shots at Edmonton.
Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Avalanche:
Matt Duchene – Paul Stastny – Milan Hejduk
Mark Olver – Ryan O'Reilly – Gabriel Landeskog
Daniel Winnik – Jay McClement – Kevin Porter
Cody McLeod – David Van Der Gulik – Chuck Kobasew
Kyle Quincey – Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda – Ryan O'Byrne
Shane O'Brien – Ryan Wilson