3 Keys: Avalanche at Jets, Game 1 of Western 1st Round | NHL.com (2024)

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche will meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time when they play in the Western Conference First Round.

The Jets (52-24-6) won their last eight regular-season games and finished second in the Central Division, three points behind the first-place Dallas Stars, who finished with the best record in the Western Conference.

The Avalanche (50-25-7), who won the Stanley Cup in 2022, finished third in the Central, three points behind the Jets. They went 4-4-2 in their final 10 regular-season games.

Winnipeg won all three regular-season games against Colorado by a 17-4 margin.

“Every year is a little bit different. We've come up short in here, so you have to take a bit of a different approach,” Jets forward Mason Appleton said.

“This is the hungriest I've ever seen this group. We really have a lot of belief in this group and in this team, and we're coming into the playoffs with what we feel is one of the hottest teams in the League. Playoffs are a different animal, but we're going to try to keep that rolling.”

Here are 3 keys for the series:

1. Forgetting about the past

That’s what the Avalanche are doing when it comes to their regular-season matchups against the Jets. Colorado coach Jared Bednar said there’s no point referring to them as a primer for this series.

“We laid an egg twice, got blown out (6-2 loss on Dec. 16; 7-0 loss on April 13), and in the other game we looked at probably the most, that was our best game against them was at home early in the year (4-2 loss Dec. 7) and it’s different personnel,” Bednar said. “There’s very little we can take from them besides that we know how they want to play, and now it’s about working our way through that.”

2. Dealing with MacKinnon

It’s never easy trying to slow down Nathan MacKinnon. The Avalanche center had an NHL career-high 140 points (51 goals, 89 assists) this season, second to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov (144 points; 44 goals, 100 assists).

The Jets know stopping him will require all hands on deck.

“When you play the Avs, (MacKinnon) is going to play 24, 25 minutes and maybe he’s going to play more, so you have to have a couple lines ready to go,” Winnipeg coach Rick Bowness said. “One line is not going to shut him down.

“The key here is making sure we’re always aware when Nate’s on the ice. We’ve talked to them about that.”

3. Jets defense vs. Avalanche offense

It's quite the matchup, isn’t it? Winnipeg was one of the most defensively sound teams in the NHL during the regular season, allowing just 2.41 goals per game, tied for first with the Florida Panthers. Then there’s Colorado, which led the League by scoring 3.68 goals per game, just ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs (3.63).

So, what do the Avalanche have to do to break through offensively, something they couldn’t do in the regular season against the Jets?

“They’re a good enough offensive team, but they’re an even better defensive team where they keep pucks out of the net. For us, we have to match that,” Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson said.

“We have offense in this group, but it’s like one of those back-and-forth battles where we have to deny their offense more than they’re going to deny ours almost, because we have a powerful offense. But they have a really strong [defense]. It’s going to be a good series.”

Avalanche projected lineup

Zach Parise -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen

Artturi Lehkonen -- Casey Mittelstadt -- Valeri Nichushkin

Miles Wood -- Ross Colton -- Joel Kiviranta

Andrew Cogliano -- Yakov Trenin -- Brandon Duhaime

Devon Toews -- Cale Makar

Samuel Girard -- Josh Manson

Jack Johnson -- Sean Walker

Alexandar Georgiev

Justus Annunen

Scratched: Chris Wagner, Brad Hunt, Caleb Jones, Arvid Holm

Injured: Jonathan Drouin (lower body)

Jets projected lineup

Kyle Connor -- Mark Scheifele -- Gabriel Vilardi

Nikolaj Ehlers -- Sean Monahan -- Tyler Toffoli

Nino Niederreiter -- Adam Lowry -- Mason Appleton

David Gustafsson -- Vladislav Namestnikov -- Alex Iafallo

Josh Morrissey -- Dylan DeMelo

Brenden Dillon -- Neal Pionk

Logan Stanley -- Dylan Samberg

Connor Hellebuyck

Laurent Brossoit

Scratched: Rasmus Kupari, Cole Perfetti, Nate Schmidt, Colin Miller, Collin Delia

Injured: Morgan Barron (lower body)

Status report

Bednar would not name his starting goalie for Game 1. … Drouin is out for the first round after the forward was injured in Colorado’s regular-season finale against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday. … Girard skated Saturday but is a game-time decision; Jones, a defenseman, would enter if Girard is unable to play. … Toews missed practice Saturday for the birth of his child but skated Sunday and is expected to play. … The Avalanche recalled Wagner, a forward, Hunt, a defenseman, and Holm, a goalie, from Colorado of the American Hockey League on Saturday. … Barron, a forward, will miss Game 1; Gustafsson enters in his place. … The Jets loaned forwards Brad Lambert, Nikita Chibrikov and Parker Ford to Manitoba of the American Hockey League on Friday and recalled Delia, a goalie, on an emergency basis.

3 Keys: Avalanche at Jets, Game 1 of Western 1st Round | NHL.com (2024)
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