Jets, Avalanche seek to end year on positive note

Two teams trying to change things before the calendar turns to 2020 meet in Denver on New Year’s Eve.

Winnipeg, with just two wins and five points in its last eight games, visits the scuffling Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night in a matchup of Central Division rivals. The Jets are coming off a 4-1 loss to the defending champion St. Louis Blues on Sunday, leaving them 1-4-1 in their past six games.

The Avalanche, 1-3-1 in their past five, fell 3-2 in a shootout at Dallas on Saturday night.

Neither team is feeling good about how things have gone lately, but the Jets might be the more desperate squad. They have slipped in the division standings while Colorado built up a little cushion before its recent struggles.

“We look at it, deal with it every day,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said after the loss in St. Louis. “There feels like there is a break. We’re not sitting on two in eight. We’re 0-1-1 coming out of the Christmas break against a pretty good team. Big pieces of that game was right, as good as we’re going to play. That’s what we have, so you focus on that.”

One of the problem areas for the Jets has been the penalty kill, where they have allowed nine goals on 18 chances over the past seven games. The remedy could be going against the Avalanche, who have converted just five goals on their past 36 power-play chances, with two of those coming in a win at Vegas on Dec. 23.

Colorado coach Jared Bednar mixed up his power-play units during practice Monday. Joonas Donskoi went to the first unit with center Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeksog. Andre Burakovsky, Mikko Rantanen and center Nazem Kadri now comprise the second unit.

“It’s to find production on the power play,” Bednar said. “It’s really, really good in some areas and not so good on others. We just haven’t been dangerous enough on it, so we’re trying to move the pieces around. We have lots of capable players, we have lots of skill, it has to do with our attack mentality and the pace we work at.”

Bednar also said that MacKinnon, the team’s leading scorer and fifth overall in the NHL, will double shift on the man advantage.

The return of defenseman Cale Makar two games ago hasn’t been able to change the Avalanche’s fortunes. The rookie plays the point on the first unit, and his ability to shoot the puck and move it around creates chances. However, he missed eight games with an upper-body injury and the power play struggled.

The Tuesday game is Colorado’s third of four straight within its division. The Avalanche are just 6-7-1 against Central Division opponents, including losses in four of the last five games.

“The Central, we have to win some of those games,” Bednar said. “They’re four-point games. We’d like to be better there for sure, especially when it’s so tight. Our guys are aware of that, we’re doing our best to win every game, not just in the Central.”

–Field Level Media

Source: Yahoo Sports

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