Recreation Night time: Jets at Avalanche — Huge check for Winnipeg

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Paul Friesen Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar scores the winning goal in overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Jan. 4, 2022. Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar scores the winning goal in overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Jan. 4, 2022. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski /USA TODAY Sports

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WINNIPEG JETS (16-11-5) at COLORADO AVALANCHE (19-8-2)

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Thursday, 8 p.m., Ball Arena

TV: TSN3; Radio: 680-CJOB

WHY WATCH? To find out if the Jets are for real

Since Paul Maurice stepped away from the hot seat, the Jets are three-for-four with three straight wins, including a pre-Christmas, 4-2 win over division-rival St. Louis and an overtime squeaker in Vegas to kick off this week. Those are two good hockey teams. Arizona is not, so the Jets’ 3-1 win on Tuesday can be taken with a serving of salt. In Denver, the Jets will encounter a rumbling Avalanche squad that scores more goals than anyone in the Central and is 8-1-1 in its last 10.
If Winnipeg wants to flirt with the Division’s top three – they trail third-place Colorado by three points but have played three more games – they’ll have to make a move on a team like this more than once.

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POINTS LEADERS

Jets GP G A PTS +/-
Kyle Connor 32 19 16 35 -2
Pierre-Luc Dubois 32 15 11 26 0
Nikolaj Ehlers 32 13 12 25 +9

Avalanche GP G A PTS +/-
Nazem Kadri 26 11 30 41 +9
Mikko Rantanen 26 15 18 33 +12
Gabriel Landeskog 24 10 19 29 +13

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power play: Jets 21.0% (12th); Avalanche 23.7% (9th)
Penalty kill: Jets 71.6% (29th); Avalanche 73.6% (28th)

THREE THINGS ABOUT THE AVALANCHE

1-If you’ve been living under a rock the last day or two, Colorado defenceman Cale Makar scored a goal-of-the-year candidate in overtime on Tuesday, giving his team a 4-3 win over the Blackhawks in Chicago. Spinning away from a checker, Makar stickhandled to the net and stuck a backhander just under the crossbar behind Marc-Andre Fleury, giving him a league-leading (for defencemen) 14 goals on the season. The play had some long-time Avs observers considering it among the best goals in franchise history.

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2-The Avs have won nine straight at home and no NHL team has lost fewer games on home ice than they have (11-2-1). Like the Jets, Colorado will be playing its third game since the extended holiday break. Star Nathan MacKinnon is tied for fifth in team scoring, with just three goals but a healthy 25 assists for 28 points. He has recorded 16 points over his last 10 games. Manitoba’s Darren Helm has found a late-career home in Denver. The 34-year-old from St. Andrews has four goals, six points, in 29 games. Darcy Kuemper has a 15-5 record in goal.

3-COVID protocol has hit Colorado hard this season, as they’ve been shut down no less than three times, the last time causing the postponement of seven games going into Christmas. Among those who have benefited from the break are defenceman Bo Byram. The fourth overall draft pick from 2019 has been plagued by at least three concussions, the most recent keeping him out from Dec. 2 to the start of this week. Leading scorers Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen have been among those on the COVID list.

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