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Avs Begin Western Stretch vs. Jets

Most of Colorado opponents in the next three weeks will be from the same conference

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--After five straight games against Eastern Conference opponents, the Colorado Avalanche now turns its attention to teams on its side of the continent. 

Nine of Colorado's next 10 games are versus fellow Western Conference squads, including five of its next six against the Central Division. That stretch begins Thursday when the Avalanche plays at the Winnipeg Jets in the first of two matchups between the divisional foes in a seven-day period.

"It's very important. We're playing a lot of teams that we're fighting with (for playoff position)," said defenseman Patrik Nemeth of Colorado's upcoming schedule. "It's four-point games almost all the time. We got to get going and rack up some win here together."

This is the third of five meetings between the Avs and Jets this year, and the last one to be played at Bell MTS Place. Winnipeg is presently tied with the San Jose Sharks for first in the Western Conference standings. 

"We know they're a good team. They're good offensively and got some good D that can join the rush as well," said defenseman Samuel Girard of the Jets. "We're going to have to play a good game defensively and make sure that we're five back in the zone. I think if we do that, I think the offense will come."

Thursday will mark the fifth straight year that Colorado has played on Valentine's Day. It will be the 10th time overall that the Avs have played on Feb. 14 since moving to Denver in 1995 (4-4-1). 

The Avalanche held an optional practice Wednesday morning at Family Sports Center, with most of the players participating. Colorado had 11 forwards, six defensemen and both goaltenders go through drills for around 30 minutes before departing for the team flight to Manitoba.

Among those skating was Mark Barberio, who took part in the session in a regular practice jersey. The defenseman has been out since suffering a concussion on Jan. 21.

Head coach Jared Bednar did not give an update on Barberio's status following practice.

Bednar also didn't disclose who his starting goaltender will be against the Jets. Both Philipp Grubauer and Semyon Varlamov saw action in Tuesday's contest versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

QUOTABLES

Defenseman Samuel Girard on the Avalanche's upcoming schedule: "Those games are important for us. It's division games so we're going to have to find a way to win those games and play well."

Video: Girard talks about the upcoming game in Winnipeg

Defenseman Patrik Nemeth on the Winnipeg Jets: "They have a deep team, some big bodies. They have a good power play, so we got to stay out of the box and not give them a chance to capitalize on the power play. We got to play with the adjustments that we've been talking about."

Video: Patrik Nemeth before the flight to Winnipeg

Head Coach Jared Bednar on the Western Conference playoff race: "The team that is going to get in the playoffs is the team that has the best last third of the season. I still believe that we can do that. We got to break the spell… I know we have to keep working together to get out of it. That's the only way."

Video: Jared Bednar gives an update on his team

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