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At the Rink: Jets at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Winnipeg Jets will attempt to continue their winning ways on the road when they play the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Thursday.

The Jets (15-9-5) have picked up at least one point in five consecutive road games (3-0-2) and their road record (9-4-3, 21 points) is second best in the NHL, two points behind the Vancouver Canucks.

"Keeping it simple," Jets center Bryan Little said. "There's not really any pressure playing on the road. We play a really simple game and I think we play even more simple when we're on the road. Each rink we're the underdogs and we have that simple go-to-work kind of attitude. It's been working for us. We come into each rink believing we can win."

The Jets are fourth in the Central Division and hold the first Western Conference wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Winnipeg missed the playoffs its first three seasons after the franchise moved from Atlanta in 2011.

"It's what we all play for," Little said. "You try every season to try and get a spot there. It's tough. There's a reason why the good teams make the playoffs. You have to do it all season and we still have a long way to go. If we continue playing like we're doing, we're giving ourselves a good shot."

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said he isn't surprised by the Jets' early-season success.

"I always thought that was a good team," he said. "They have speed, they have size, they play a physical game. This is a good team."

Little and his linemates, left wing Andrew Ladd and right wing Blake Wheeler, have had plenty of success against the Avalanche. The line combined for six goals and seven assists in the first two games this season, and the three players have 27 goals and 30 assists in 47 career games against Colorado.

"It's something we're not really thinking about," said Little, who had a hat trick last Friday in the Jets' 6-2 home win against the Avalanche. "We're on a bit of a roll and when that's happening you're not really thinking about much other than going out and playing hard. That's what we have to keep doing.

"Even though we're getting some wins and getting some points and we're at a decent spot in the standings, no one is satisfied. We know it's a long season and there's a lot of games to be played, but we're happy with where we're at right now."

The Avalanche (9-13-6) have lost four games in a row (0-4-1) and have the sixth-worst home record (5-7-2) in the League.

"After a while it starts to take a toll on you, but the group in here makes it a lot easier to rebound and stay positive," defenseman Zach Redmond said. "You never want to be happy with losing, but you can't kick yourself so hard where you can't rebound and have a good game."

Here are the projected lineups:


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Michael Frolik

Chris Thorburn - Adam Lowry - Matt Halischuk

TJ Galiardi - Jim Slater - Anthony Peluso

Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba

Ben Chiarot - Dustin Byfuglien

Adam Pardy - Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Julien Brouillette, Patrice Cormier

Suspended: Evander Kane

Injured: Zach Bogosian (lower body), Grant Clitsome (upper body), Tobias Enstrom (lower body)


Alex Tanguay - Matt Duchene - Ryan O'Reilly

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod - Maxime Talbot - Daniel Briere

Nick Holden - Paul Carey - Borna Rendulic

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Karl Stollery - Zach Redmond

Calvin Pickard

Reto Berra

Scratched: None

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (back surgery), Marc-Andre Cliche (oblique), Dennis Everberg (separated shoulder), Jamie McGinn (back surgery), John Mitchell (leg), Ben Street (hand), Brad Stuart (hamstring), Semyon Varlamov (groin), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (concussion)

Status report: Kane will complete his two-game suspension Thursday for boarding the Anaheim Ducks' Clayton Stoner on Sunday ... Roy said he won't be surprised if McGinn misses the rest of the season after he had back surgery Wednesday. "It went really well, the doctors were very happy," Roy said. "For the next six weeks he won't do much. We'll see how it goes. We'll know in the next three or four weeks, see how his back reacts. We're certainly not going to push him."

Who's hot: Byfuglien has four goals and three assists in a five-game scoring streak ... Ladd has two goals and four assists in a three-game streak ... Wheeler has one goal and five assists in a three-game streak ... Little has four goals and two assists in his past three games ... Tanguay has two goals and four assists in his past six games.

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