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Morning Skate Report: Avs Face Tough Task Against Winnipeg

Colorado hosts Winnipeg for the first time this season

by Callie Parmele @CallieParmele /

For the second time in the past seven days, the Colorado Avalanche faces the Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets.

The Avs defeated the Jets 4-1 on Thursday in Winnipeg after Dominic Toninato recorded his first NHL goal, Gabriel Landeskog netted his 30th marker of the season, J.T. Compher scored his third short-handed tally of the year, Sven Andrighetto added his fourth of the campaign and Semyon Varlamov stopped 24-of-25 shots.

"It is always tough to play this team, no different tonight," Nathan MacKinnon said of Winnipeg. "Obviously, we beat them in their rink last time, it is going to be tough for us tonight. We haven't had a great home record this year. We won last game which kind of stopped our bleeding at home a little bit, and we are excited to follow that up tonight."

It is the fourth time this season that the clubs are meeting, but it is the first occurrence in Denver. The Jets will make one more visit to the Mile High City this year in Colorado's final regular-season game at Pepsi Center on April 4.

The contest tonight also wraps up a three-game homestand for Colorado. The Avs are 1-1-0 so far on this home stay, falling 3-0 to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday before rebounding with a 3-0 victory of their own against the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday.

Colorado has won two of its last three games and has points in five of its last seven (2-2-3).

"We just haven't given up the home-run play," MacKinnon said of what has been going well for Colorado. "We have had some good games before that, but we just give up breakaways, 2-on-1's, and we have mental breakdowns. We lost to a really good St. Louis team, but other than that we have been pretty solid.

"Before that, we lost three games in overtime which just hurts; we could be in a playoff spot right now if we won one of those. We are playing better, and hopefully we can keep adjusting. It is going to be really tough against [Winnipeg], they are so deep--they have four lines that can score so we have to be ready."

Video: Nathan MacKinnon the Avalanche facing the Jets



After mixing up his forward combinations, head coach Jared Bednar confirmed that the Avalanche with utilize the same alignment against the Jets as it did on Monday versus Vegas.   

Bednar split up all three of his scoring leaders versus the Golden Knights for the first time this year by puting Nathan MacKinnon on a trio with Alexander Kerfoot and Sven Andrighetto, Mikko Rantanen with Matt Nieto and Carl Soderberg, and Gabriel Landeskog on a line with Tyson Jost and Matt Calvert.

The other forward combination had Andrew Agozzino centering J.T. Compher and A.J. Greer.

"I think it worked well. It is always a little bit different when you switch up the lines and you are playing with new people, but I thought all four lines clicked really well," said Jost. "We had all four lines rolling, and that is fun when you send out a line and they create momentum and then the other line goes out there and does the same thing and it just kind of keeps rolling.

"It is fun when you are playing hockey like that, and everybody is excited on the bench and everybody is involved. That is something we got to bring tonight. I think it is the same lines again, so we are expecting the same compete and the same stuff that we brought in Vegas and bring it here again against Winnipeg, a big division rival for sure."

Video: Tyson Jost before Avalanche vs. Jets



In addition to the lineup staying the same, Bednar confirmed that goaltender Semyon Varlamov will start the game between the pipes again for the Avs for his season-long, eighth consecutive outing.

He stopped all 40 shots he faced in Monday to pick up his second shutout of the season, the 25th of his career. It marked the fifth career shutout of 40 or more saves for the netminder, who became the fifth Russian goaltender in NHL history to record 25 clean sheets.

"He has been awesome. On the road trip out east he was great," MacKinnon said of Varlamov. "We haven't really been scoring many goals, so it is not on him. It is on us to help him out a little bit more."

Through the past seven games, Varlamov has posted a .927 save percentage and 2.58 goals-against average.



Colin Wilson was on the ice in a red, non-contact jersey for the morning skate, and he will not be an option for the Avs this evening.

Wilson has missed four games since suffering an upper-body injury on Feb. 10 at the Boston Bruins. The veteran forwards has skated in 46 games this season and has recorded 18 points (10 goals, eight assists).

Bednar said on Monday that Wilson could be an option against Winnipeg if he continued to progress, but he has not yet been cleared for full contact.

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