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At the Rink: Jets at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice wouldn't say which goalie, Michael Hutchinson or rookie Connor Hellebuyck, he will use against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday at Pepsi Center (10 p.m. ET; ALT, SN).

"I'm not giving you my goalie tonight," Maurice said. "The answer to the decision that I'll make, I'm going to put both these goaltenders in a position to succeed for an extended period of time. We want both of these guys to seize the opportunity to be in a position to do that."

Regardless of who plays, Maurice is hopeful the Jets (11-11-2) will be as strong defensively as they were Friday for Hellebuyck, who made 14 saves in a 3-1 road win against the Minnesota Wild in his NHL debut.

"We did a pretty fine job in front of that net making sure he could see (shots), and he did a good job stopping them," Maurice said. "We stayed out of the penalty box and still found a way to play a very physical game; that was a real key point. We didn't cheat on any plays and we weren't trying to squeeze offense out of a game that there wasn't a lot of offense in. We still got our chances to score. Our chances against were the smallest number since I've been in Winnipeg. Our challenge is to throw another one just like that in here."

Hutchinson has lost two games in a row since goalie Ondrej Pavelec was put on injured reserve with a knee injury that is expected to keep him out through at least December. He allowed five goals on 34 shots Wednesday in the 5-3 road loss to the Washington Capitals and three goals on 28 shots Monday in the 4-1 home loss to the Avalanche.

The Jets' biggest challenge will be to control the Avalanche line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene. MacKinnon and Duchene have combined for 11 goals and 10 assists in the past eight games. Landeskog has a goal and four assists in a four-game scoring streak since returning from a two-game suspension.

"It's definitely a tough matchup," Winnipeg center Bryan Little said. "They're all fast players, they're all really offensive. They've been playing some pretty good defensive hockey as well. We're used to playing against the other team's best players, so it's nothing different."

The Avalanche (8-13-1) have lost four of their past five games, and their 2-6-1 home record is the worst in the League. They've gone 2-1-0 against Central Division teams and will hit the road for a four-game road trip after Saturday.

"We all know how important those (division) games are," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "If you want a chance to make the playoffs, you need to win those hockey games."

Roy said the Avalanche need to get off to a fast start whether they face Hutchinson or Hellebuyck, especially since the Jets are playing the second game of a back-to-back situation.

"A younger goalie, you try to get to him right at the start of the game," Roy said. "If you can score one, he might be shaky after that. But there's a lot of young goalies who have a lot of character. I don't think it really matters. You have to respect the goalie and make sure you're hungry around the net."

Here are the projected lineups:


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Drew Stafford

Chris Thorburn - Alexander Burmistrov - Nikolaj Ehlers

Adam Lowry - Andrew Copp - Anthony Peluso

Adam Pardy - Dustin Byfuglien

Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers

Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba

Michael Hutchinson

Connor Hellebuyck

Injured: Grant Clitsome (upper body), Ondrej Pavelec (knee)

Scratched: Joel Armia, Ben Chiarot, Paul Postma


Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Matt Duchene

Andreas Martinsen - Mikhail Grigorenko - Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau

Andrew Agozzino - Chris Wagner - Jack Skille

Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson

Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie

Brandon Gormley - Zach Redmond

Semyon Varlamov

Reto Berra

Injured: John Mitchell (oblique), Ben Street (chest), Brad Stuart (back), Alex Tanguay (knee), Jesse Winchester (head)

Scratched: Nate Guenin

Status report: Agozzino was recalled Friday from San Antonio of the American Hockey League. He was the leading scorer there with seven goals and nine assists, but his role will be to play a strong defensive game and to provide energy on the fourth line.

Who's hot: Wheeler has an assist in three consecutive games. ... Byfuglien has a goal and two assists in a two-game scoring streak. ... Perreault has a goal in two consecutive games. ... Duchene has seven goals and six assists in the past eight games. ... Landeskog has a goal and four assists in a four-game streak.

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