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Stafford a game-time decision as Jets prepare for Ava

31-year-old has missed five games with lower-body injury

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 /

Video: JetsTV Road Report

DENVER, CO - Fresh off earning their first three-game win streak of the season in Dallas, the Winnipeg Jets are focused on extending that streak on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche.

At 13-33-2, the Avalanche sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, and are winless (0-7-2) in their last nine games. But Bryan Little, who opened the scoring in the 4-3 win over the Stars Thursday, said the Jets can't change their approach from the last two games, where they've battled teams in the playoff race.

"I think you almost don't worry about who you're playing, and try to worry about what we can control and how we come out," said Little. "I don't think anyone is going to take a game lightly right now. I fully expect us to be ready to play tomorrow and be as good as we can be.

"It's that time of year where we want to get something rolling right now."

Video: PRACTICE | Bryan Little

Head coach Paul Maurice agrees, and says Winnipeg's match ups with Colorado have been more of a "grinder" style compared to games against teams like the Stars. Case in point, two of the three meetings with the Avalanche have been decided by one goal.

"You put that line-up on the wall, they have good players. They're looking for anything to get excited about, and any kind of hope in the game," Maurice said. "So we have to be right from the drop of the puck. All the games in my memory are all tight games, lots of overtime games. It'll be a hard, physical battle."

After getting Mathieu Perreault back from a broken finger Thursday, the Jets could also get another veteran back in the line-up on Saturday. Drew Stafford has missed the past five games with a lower-body injury, but Maurice says the 31-year-old will be a game time decision in the road trip finale.

"He's had a couple of real good pushes the last two games, we'll see how he's feeling after, and make sure nothing changes," Maurice said. "Then we'll make a decision tomorrow for him going in."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

The 2 pm CT puck drop prevents Stafford from having the benefit of a pre-game skate, but he said handling today's chilly 25-minute skate in Colorado was a sign to him that he's ready to return.

"We'll see how it responds the rest of the day today," Stafford said. "So far, so good…. Today is a pretty nice indication, practicing in a rink that's about minus 30. So to stay warm and feel like I'm moving pretty good."

It's not the first time this season that Stafford has missed time. He was out 15 games in a 28-day period early in the season with a concussion.

"It threw me for a loop there for a while. It was tough to get in the groove," he said.

Stafford was moved into a top six role while Patrik Laine was out with his concussion, and posted six points in seven games, before suffering his current lower body ailment.

He said while it was unfortunate not to have Laine in the line-up, playing that more offensive role helped Stafford find a bit of a groove after missing so much time earlier in the season.

"For me to get a chance to play back in the top six and more of an offensive role, I was feeling pretty good and putting up some points, and making plays, contributing on the score sheet offensively," said Stafford. "This little bit of a minor setback knocked me back out.

"All excuses aside, we've got plenty of time left, and it's exciting to be part of a team in a playoff push."

Video: PRACTICE | Drew Stafford

After his 39 save performance in Dallas, Ondrej Pavelec will get his third straight start on Saturday afternoon, while Calvin Pickard gets the call for the Avalanche.

"He came in and made saves in critical times. We've seen him in the past get into that kind of groove. He won us the game (Thursday) night," Maurice said. "You ask your goalie at the end of the day to try and be better than the guy at the other end. That gives you a chance to win - and he was."

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