Short but interesting card of NHL action for Wednesday and we’ll take a look at a game in the Central Division as the Winnipeg Jets look to regain their winning ways on the road against the Colorado Avalanche. Early in the season, the Jets looked like they were the team to beat in the Western Conference. Now they’re in third place in the Western Conference one point up on the Nashville Predators, 2 points back of the San Jose Sharks and 3 points back of the Calgary Flames. They still hold the lead in the Central Division but the Nashville Predators are breathing down their necks and both teams will likely soon welcome the insanely hot St. Louis Blues to the party (Blues have won 11 straight games).
The Jets can be excused for losing games to red hot teams like the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks (both 7-2-1 L10) but Winnipeg’s problem is that they’ve lost a number of games recently that they flat out shouldn’t have lost. They enter tonight’s contest on a two game losing streak with two home losses–one to the Avalanche and one to the team with the worst record in the league, the Ottawa Senators. The also have the dubious distinction of losing to the Senators at Ottawa just a week ago. Ottawa has won only 3 of their last 11 games and 2 of those victories were over the Winnipeg Jets. Making the current two game losing streak all the more surprising is their generally solid play at home (currently 21-7-4 at the Bell MTS Place) and their tendency this season to take advantage of matchups against weaker teams (22-11 YTD against opponents with a losing record).
Colorado is sort of a ‘grease fire’ at the moment which not only makes the recent home loss to the Avs all the more inexcusable but makes this game all the more crucial for the Jets to win. Colorado is on a 5-14-5 run in their last 24 games and that’s just not going to get it done in the brutally tough Central. The Avs are just 1 point out of the final playoff spot in the West but they’re tied with three other teams and they’ve got the worst record of the bunch. One of these teams is Chicago (8-2-0 L10) who is the only team of this bunch with a L10 winning record. Colorado is the biggest money loser in the NHL (-17.9 units) and most of the damage has been done at home (11-17) where they’ve lost -13.4 units. They’ve also been a money loser in divisional games (5-11 -8.9 units) and against teams with winning records (10-21 -10.2 units).
Winnipeg’s blueliners are banged up–Joe Morrow is out indefinitely, Dustin Byfuglien will miss this game and Dmitry Kulikov is listed as ‘questionable’ but should play as he was a full participant in today’s practice. Jets have a tough schedule sequence coming up–they play at Vegas and Arizona followed by home games against Minnesota and Nashville. They then embark on a four game East Coast trip with games at Columbus, Tampa, Carolina and Washington. Not a lot of gimmies in that bunch making it crucial that they take advantage of the Avs’ poor form and get the win here. Coming in off a four day break they should have the energy and focus to do so.