The Colorado Avalanche have had little trouble beating Eastern Conference teams. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, they’re in the West.
The Avalanche look to avenge one of their only losses to an Eastern opponent Sunday night when they visit a Winnipeg Jets team hoping to build on an encouraging start to its longest homestand of the season.
Colorado (29-26-4) and Winnipeg (28-26-6) are both sitting just outside the top eight in their respective conferences. A big reason the Avalanche aren’t currently in playoff position is because they’ve been awful within their own division.
They had lost 14 of 16 games against Northwest opponents before beating last-place Edmonton 3-1 on Friday. Rookie Gabriel Landeskog scored his 14th goal - his third in five games - and Ryan O’Reilly had three assists.
“All these games are must-win for us now and this was a huge one for us,” said O’Reilly, who leads Colorado with 15 goals and 29 assists. “We’ve been terrible in our divisional games this year. To get one like this, hopefully, we can take away some things from this game and what we did to win and learn from them and do them again in our next game.”
While the Avs have struggled mightily within the Northwest, they’ve been outstanding against teams from the Atlantic, Northeast and Southeast.
Colorado is 11-2-0 against the East, the second-best record in the league. Despite this success, the Avs suffered a 4-1 home loss to the Jets on Dec. 27, as Winnipeg’s Evander Kane had two of his team-leading 21 goals and Ondrej Pavelec stopped 32 shots.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere was between the pipes in that game for Colorado but is unlikely to play this time after suffering a groin injury Wednesday.
Semyon Varlamov got the call Friday and made 26 saves to snap a personal five-game losing streak, winning for the first time since Jan. 6.
Varlamov will have to be ready against a Winnipeg offense that is starting to show signs of life.
The Jets have reached the four-goal mark in three of their last four games after being limited to two or fewer in seven of their previous eight. After topping Minnesota 4-3 in a shootout on Thursday, Winnipeg beat Boston 4-2 on Friday to open an eight-game homestand.
“To beat a team like Boston, these points mean a lot to us in the standings and we need to keep winning these games at home,” said Bryan Little, who had two third-period goals.
Alex Burmistrov also scored Friday and is leading Winnipeg’s recent scoring surge with three goals in his last four games.
With the victories over the Wild and Bruins, the Jets won games on consecutive days for the first time in 10 tries this season. Winnipeg, just three points out of the Southeast lead, is now looking to win three straight contests for the first time since Dec. 27-31.
Pavelec stopped 31 shots Friday and is likely to be back in goal Sunday. He has allowed two goals in each of his last two starts after surrendering a career-worst eight in last Saturday’s 8-5 loss to Pittsburgh.
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