NHL Hockey

Jets look to keep rolling at home vs. scuffling Avs

The Winnipeg Jets came within a couple of games of reaching the Stanley Cup finals last spring, and this year they're playing like they want to complete that mission.

The Jets (36-18-3, 75 points) sit atop the Central Division standings, four points ahead of Nashville and nearly unbeatable at home (21-6-3). That's not good news for the Colorado Avalanche, who are coming into Winnipeg on Thursday night riding an eight-game losing streak (0-5-3).

Winnipeg is 8-0-1 in its last nine home games, including a win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night and a 7-4 victory over Colorado on Jan. 8.

There has been talk the Jets are in need of some more offensive punch on their secondary lines, but center Mark Scheifele showed on Tuesday that the first line -- including forwards Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor -- can get things done, with two goals against the Rangers.

Scheifele now has a team-best 30 on the season and is going strong as the season heads to the stretch run.

"I'm feeling good. Playing with two unbelievable players, so I'm pretty lucky," Scheifele said after the win. "On any given night we try to do everything for each other. That one guy gets rewarded. If it's a guy driving the net or taking a hit or blocking a shot or having a good stick, that's what we do for each other all over the ice."

The Avalanche could use some of that good fortune because they haven't had much lately. After three straight overtime losses on the road, they came out flat in a 5-2 home loss to Toronto on Tuesday night. Colorado (22-23-11, 55 points) is 5-16-6 since Dec. 7 and is quickly fading from the postseason picture.

When things were going well, the Avalanche could rely on their top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen to score. But as teams have focused on the trio, scoring has become tougher.

During the current eight-game losing streak, MacKinnon has four points, Landeskog three points and Rantanen has two. They've scored just three goals between them, and none of the three has a plus-minus better than minus-5 over that span.

It was an issue Tuesday when the Maple Leafs held the top line to just two shots. That, combined with a poor penalty kill (Colorado has allowed 26 power-play goals in its last 26 games) leads to a prolonged losing streak.

"We had enough other guys going that I felt like we were in position to win the hockey game, (notwithstanding) the penalty kill and what it was and the penalties that we took," coach Jared Bednar said after the loss to Toronto.

The Jets were hoping to get good news on the injury front, but forward Nikolaj Ehlers is still not practicing with the team despite signs pointing to him returning to activities earlier this week. Ehlers has missed 17 games with an undisclosed injury.

"We're looking at another week or two, at least," coach Paul Maurice told the Winnipeg Sun. "He was getting close to the end of the window, wasn't feeling a whole lot better and then we had it checked again. So, it's going to be longer than we thought."

Winnipeg defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is expected to miss his fourth straight game on Thursday.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 13, 2019

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