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Preview: Colorado welcomes Winnipeg to Ball Arena

The Avs look to stay in the win column against the streaking Jets.

Anaheim Ducks v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

After a brief skid featuring two overtime losses and one in regulation, Colorado returned home. It knocked off the Anaheim Ducks with a reconfigured lineup that sparked one of Nathan MacKinnon’s best games of the season. With the Winnipeg Jets in town riding a two-game win streak and a few healthy bodies back in the lineup, the Avalanche will look to improve on the energy from the Ducks game to ground the Jets.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avs have been consistently playing to the level of their opponents in recent weeks, which is ostensibly a good thing for tonight’s game since Winnipeg has been playing quite well. But several Avalanche players need to bring their best selves in the way Nate did against the Ducks to beat a much better team — just one line scoring all the goals won’t cut it against the deeper, more veteran Jets.

Cale Makar’s likely return from a 1.25-game injury absence should help, and Bowen Byram and Andrew Cogliano are also expected back. Valeri Nichushkin is expected to miss his second straight contest due to an illness, so the top line that worked so well against Anaheim will likely stay together in MacKinnon with Jonathan Drouin and Logan O’Connor.

Behind them, the lines will have to be reconfigured again as Oskar Olausson has been sent back to the Eagles following his somewhat ineffective debut. Cogs is unlikely to step in on the second line with Mikko Rantanen and Ross Colton, so someone else - perhaps Miles Wood or Tomas Tatar - will need to step up and earn that spot.

With Cale and Bo returning, Jared Bednar also said Sam Malinski will play. We’ll see if Caleb Jones, Jack Johnson, or Kurtis MacDermid end up playing in defense in what could be an 11-7 lineup.

Projected Lineup

Jonathan Drouin — Nathan MacKinnon — Logan O’Connor
Tomas Tatar — Ross Colton — Mikko Rantanen
Miles Wood — Ryan Johansen— Joel Kiviranta
Andrew Cogliano— Fredrik Olofsson

Cale Makar — Devon Toews
Bo Byram— Josh Manson
Jack Johnson — Sam Malinski
Caleb Jones

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets just beat Chicago and Carolina 3-1 and 2-1, respectively, and will be looking to keep up their strong defensive play in front of star Connor Hellebuyck to slow down Colorado’s attack and keep the game low scoring. That’s the Winnipeg way this season - slow things down, bottle up the middle of the ice, and score just enough to win - and it has been working as they currently sit third in the Central Division behind the Avs and Dallas Stars.

Winnipeg’s top line with Mark Scheifele between Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers is dynamic, though - they have the speed to turn a turnover into an odd-man rush in a split second and the skill to finish it strong. The rest of the lineup is mostly young players with skill upside, but despite their youth, these are not the dysfunctional Jets of the last few years that could be counted on to get in their way - they’re committed to their structure and convert on their chances.

The defense hasn’t changed, but it was never their problem. Josh Morrissey is still a strong number one, and Neal Pionk is an excellent middle-pair guy. Dylan Demelo and Brenden Dillon are capable partners for them, even though they’d be bottom-pairing guys in Colorado. The third pair is big and mean when it’s Dylan Samberg and Logan Stanley, and if Nate Schmidt takes Stanley’s place he’s a smooth-skating distributor on the bottom pair who is having a resurgent year.

Projected Lineup

Kyle Connor — Mark Scheifele — Nikolaj Ehlers
Cole Perfetti — Gabriel Vilardi — Alex Iafallo
Nino Niederreiter — Adam Lowry — Mason Appleton
Morgan Barron — David Gustafsson — Axel Jonsson-Fjallby

Josh Morrissey — Dylan DeMelo
Brenden Dillon — Neal Pionk
Dylan Samberg — Logan Stanley

Goaltenders

Georgiev will get the start following an excellent night against the Ducks where he may have given up two goals but both were nearly impossible saves he nearly made. He’ll face Connor Hellebuyck coming off two straight games giving up just one goal.