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Game #34 Preview and GDT: Colorado Avalanche at Winnipeg Jets

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The Winnipeg Jets (14-16-3) have a date with the league's worst team, the Colorado Avalanche (11-17-1).

Over the last five games, the Winnipeg Jets are 1-3-1. Together with Tuesday and Thursday road tilts against the Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg faces a trio of no less than "should win" games if the team is going to do more than tread in mediocre waters.

In terms of Winnipeg vs. Colorado, the teams have split the season series thus far. Michael Hutchinson earned his third career NHL shutout in a 1-0 victory over the Avs on Oct. 28, while Colorado took a Nov. 11 3-2 victory when "Rene Bourque" scored in overtime:

It's been a good year for those, hasn't it?

The Jets are coming off a two-day break, after downing an also middling Florida Panthers squad 4-3 in a shootout (much to Toby Enstrom's relief). The 32-year-old has nine minor penalties on the season, in a three-way tie for third with Chris Thorburn and Blake Wheeler; Mark Scheifele as 12 minor penalties, while Dustin Byfuglien leads the pack with 14. After the game, Paul Maurice wasn't worried about Enstrom's trips to the box, which isn't to say the Winnipeg head coach was completely carefree regarding the penalty kill:

It's been an underwhelming season offensively for versatile Jets forward Mathieu Perreault. In the last season of his three-year, $3 million average annual value deal, and with a new four-year contract set to kick in come 2017-18, the Drummondville, QC native has just five points in 19 games played. Currently on pace for 18 points over 68 GP, Perreault will look to continue his two-game points streak skating alongside Bryan Little and Patrik Laine. Speaking of Laine, the 18-year-old has now gone four tilts without a goal, which I'd like to think means he's due.

Colorado's most recent tilt was also against the Florida Panthers. Unlike Winnipeg, the Avs came away with a loss, falling 3-1 at home. It hasn't been a fun month for the mile high club, which enters today's match with a December record of 2-6-0. If Winnipeg's post-season hopes look questionable, Colorado's are just shy of flat-lining. When the time comes, it'll be interesting to see how the market for potential rentals such as Jarome Iginla, John Mitchell and Fedor Tyutin develops.

While Avs starter Semyon Varlamov continues recover from a groin injury, between the pipes belongs to hometown-ish 24-year-old Calvin Pickard. Long the heir apparent to Varlamov as Colorado's franchise netminder, 2010's 49th overall pick is in the midst of his toughest stretch as an NHL goalie. In his last five games, Pickard has posted save percentages of .848, .935, .800, .840 and .870. Guess which of those tilts ended with a W?

Of course, every goalie goes through rough patches. Pickard's 5-5-1 record and .904 Sv% shouldn't shake too much confidence in long-term future.


When, Where & How

Sunday, Dec. 18, 2:00 p.m. CT, MTS Centre
Radio: TSN 1290

Winnipeg Jets Projected Lineup

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Nikolaj Ehlers Mark Scheifele Blake Wheeler
Mathieu Perreault Bryan Little Patrik Laine
Brandon Tanev Adam Lowry Drew Stafford
Marko Dano Andrew Copp Chris Thorburn
Left Defence
Right Defence
Josh Morrissey Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot Paul Postma
Connor Hellebuyck
Michael Hutchinson

Colorado Avalanche Projected Lineup

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Gabriel Landeskog Nathan MacKinnon Rene Bourque
Mikhail Grigorenko Matt Duchene Mikko Rantanen
Blake Comeau John Mitchell Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen Carl Soderberg Cody McLeod
Left Defence
Right Defence
Fedor Tyutin Tyson Barrie
Patrick Wiercioch Nikita Zadorov
Francois Beachemin Eric Gelinas
Calvin Pickard
Spencer Martin