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At the Rink: Jets at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com

DENVER -- The Winnipeg Jets are in position to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they play the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; TSN3, ALT), but you'd be hard pressed to know that by their demeanor.

"The game's got to get played and how we focus won't change," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "It's not about winning, it's about playing the game. We've been good in our last long stretch of games. We've played pretty hard, pretty well. That's the key to our focus, it's the process of winning a game, what it takes. We've talked about it all year and they know what those things are. Making your mind focused isn't on winning but on playing."

The Jets (42-26-12) can earn the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with a win in any fashion against the Avalanche (37-31-12), who have been eliminated from playoff consideration.

The Jets would clinch with a point against Colorado if the Los Angeles Kings lose to the Calgary Flames. The Jets can also lose and get in if the Kings lose in regulation.

"You have to keep it even-keel, go with your same routine and kind of treat it as any other game," center Mark Scheifele said. "I think that's going to be our focus and every guy will bring it all tonight. It definitely is (exciting). It's intense, but it's exciting, each and every game has such a huge pull. We can't focus on the big picture, we have to focus on what we can do as a team to win a game."

The Jets are attempting to clinch the second playoff position in franchise history and first since the Atlanta Thrashers won the Southeast Division title in 2006-07. Winnipeg fans last attended a home playoff game in 1996 when the original Jets lost to the Detroit Red Wings. The franchise moved to Phoenix that summer.

"It would obviously be unbelievable," Scheifele said. "It's in the back of your mind, but first and foremost it's about tonight and not about the future. You want to focus on what you can do tonight to help the team win. If that happened, it would be pretty unbelievable."

The Jets, who have won three games in a row, are 3-0-1 against the Avalanche this season.

"We'd certainly like to give them credit for their season," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "The way they played against us in their building, they picked up six points out of six. They are where they are because they play hard. But I'm not looking at it as playing the spoiler role. I'm more focusing on us, how we want to play our last two games. We want to play for our fans."

Here are the projected lineups:

JETS

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik

Drew Stafford - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler

Adam Lowry - Mathieu Perreault - Lee Stempniak

Jiri Tlusty - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn

Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba

Ben Chiarot - Tyler Myers

Jay Harrison - Adam Pardy

Ondrej Pavelec

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Andrew Copp, Keaton Ellerby, TJ Galiardi, Matt Halischuk, Eric O'Dell, Anthony Peluso

Injured: Grant Clitsome (upper body), Toby Enstrom (upper body), Paul Postma (lower body)

Suspended: Dustin Byfuglien

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Alex Tanguay

John Mitchell - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Joey Hishon

Jordan Caron - Freddie Hamilton - Daniel Briere

Jan Hejda - Zach Redmond

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Nick Holden - Brad Stuart

Reto Berra

Semyon Varlamov

Scratched: None

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (fractured kneecap), Dennis Everberg (shoulder), Erik Johnson (knee), Jamie McGinn (back surgery), Nathan MacKinnon (broken foot), Borna Rendulic (broken leg), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (concussion)

Status report: Byfuglien will serve the final game of his four-game suspension for cross-checking New York Rangers forward T.J. Miller in a March 31 game. "It's tough to sit there and watch," he said. "(Clinching a playoff berth) would be huge for us." … Briere will return to the lineup after missing eight games with a foot injury. He replaces Everberg, who will need surgery after sustaining a shoulder injury Tuesday against the Nashville Predators.

Who's hot: Wheeler has four goals and one assist in the past seven games. … Perreault has five assists in five games. … O'Reilly has seven goals and eight assists in 12 games. … Duchene has three goals and five assists in seven games.

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