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Avalanche host Jets, look to climb higher in standings

by Eric Goodman

JETS (30-28-7) at AVALANCHE (41-18-5)


Last 10: Winnipeg 5-3-2; Colorado 6-4-0

Season series: This is the fourth of five games between these Central Division teams. The Winnipeg Jets defeated the Colorado Avalanche on the road in overtime on Dec. 29, while Colorado earned a road win in a shootout on Dec. 12. Colorado beat Winnipeg, 3-2 in regulation, on Oct. 27.

Big story: The Avalanche are locked in a battle with Central Division-foe and defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks for fourth place in the Western Conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But catching the Central-leading St. Louis Blues is also possible for Colorado, which would give the Avalanche their first division title since the 2002-03 season.

The Avalanche continue a four-game homestand when the Jets visit Pepsi Center.

Team Scope:

Jets: When coach Paul Maurice took over for Claude Noel on Jan. 12, the Jets became the hottest team in the NHL with a 9-2-0 record over the first 11 games under the new leadership. But Winnipeg has lost five of seven games (2-3-2) since and with 67 points is five points removed from the final playoff berth in the West.

A 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday marked a three-game sweep on the Jets' homestand. Winnipeg surrendered two power-play goals on four opportunities after it had killed off 14 of the opposition's past 16 power plays.

"This is part of the growth process. You build up one part then try to not have it shrink when you move on to the next part," Maurice said Sunday before the team boarded a plane to Denver.

Avalanche: Colorado has been well-balanced offensively with forwards Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly, Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny all scoring at least 20 goals, and left wing Gabriel Landeskog closing in on that mark with 19. But Stastny sustained a back injury on his first shift in a 2-1 loss against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday and the Avalanche won't have a prognosis until Monday. The center missed two games earlier this season with back spasms. MacKinnon shifted to center the line of Landeskog and left wing Jamie McGinn in Stastny's absence.

"Obviously, Paulie is a huge part of our team," MacKinnon said of Stastny following the game Saturday. "I thought as a unit our line could've been better."

Who's hot: Jets captain Andrew Ladd has four points (three goals, one assist) in the past four games. ... Duchene and O'Reilly are in the midst of lengthy scoring streaks for the Avalanche, with Duchene totaling 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in seven consecutive games and O'Reilly compiling 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in six straight.

Injury report: Jets forward Chris Thorburn (upper body) missed the past two games and won't travel to Denver. Maurice said Thorburn could possibly return Wednesday at home against the Vancouver Canucks. Forward Mark Scheifele (sprained MCL) is out indefinitely. Forwards James Wright (sprained ankle) and Grant Clitsome (back surgery, out for season) are on injured reserve. ... Avalanche center Paul Stastny (back) will not play. Forward Alex Tanguay (hip surgery) is out for the remainder of the season.

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