Big battle in the Central Division on Tuesday night as the Colorado Avalanche hit the road to take on the Winnipeg Jets. The injury ravaged Avs have done a nice job of ‘treading water’ of late. They’re in second place in the Central with a 10-5-2 record and despite the rash of injuries have taken points in 5 of their last 10 games. Colorado enters on a two game winning streak off of home victories against Nashville and Columbus. Before that they had lost 5 straight and 6 of 7 with an OT loss at home to Florida the only points taken in a loss.
Winnipeg has been a tough team to figure all year but they’ve been playing well of late due in large part to the improved form of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets have won 6 of 9 going 6-2-1 and have amassed 21 points to move into a third place tie with Nashville. After this contest, the Jets will hit the road for their next four games with stops in Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville and Dallas before returning home to play the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 23.
Colorado has arguably the best top line in the NHL with Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. Unfortunately, only one of the three is playing right now as Rantanen and Landeskog are listed as ‘out indefinitely’. The Avalanche is also without starting goaltender Phillipp Grubauer who was in the midst of an excellent season when he was sidelined. He’s listed as ‘day to day’ with a lower body injury but the expectation is that Pavel Francouz will get the start here. The Avs are also without defenseman Nikita Zadorov who is listed as ‘week to week’ with a broken jaw. Also listed as ‘day to day’ are center Colin Wilson and winger Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
The Jets also have some injury issues. Gabriel Bourque will be out at least a month due to a lower body injury. Center Bryan Little is suffering from vertigo due to a perforated eardrum. The good news for Winnipeg is that their top offensive weapons are starting to head up–Mark Scheifele has 17 points, Patrik Lane has 15 and Nikolaj Ehlers has 13. The expectation heading into the season was that the Jets would have to win with offense but they’ve started to get exceptional play from goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. Hellebuyck is now 8-5-1 and his goals against average is down to 2.28 with a 0.933 save percentage.
Colorado won 3 of 5 head to head last year with one of those victories on the Jets’ home ice. Over the past three seasons, Colorado has won 5 of 9 games head to head but are just 1-4-0 in Winnipeg. This is the first game of a tough road trip for the Avalanche with games after this in Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary and Minnesota. The Avs are still the substantially better team and even without their injured stars should get the victory here.