Jets-Avalanche Preview

The Colorado Avalanche have experienced a solid turnaround under

first-year coach Patrick Roy, but they were humbled by a winless

road trip against three of the Western Conference’s top teams.

They’ll look to end their skid Sunday night as they begin a

seven-game homestand against a Winnipeg Jets squad seeking to avoid

a fourth straight road loss.

Colorado (23-11-3) is in the thick of the conference race after

finishing with the fewest points in the West in last season’s

lockout-shortened campaign, though it went 0-2-1 on its road trip

against Los Angeles, San Jose and Chicago.

The Avalanche’s upcoming homestand runs through Jan. 10.

Friday’s 7-2 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion

Blackhawks marked the Avalanche’s fourth defeat in five games

overall. Paul Stastny’s goal midway through the second period was

the team’s first after falling behind 5-0.

“It felt like we were playing in the wrong league there for a

little bit,” said Matt Duchene, whose five-game point streak ended.

“We were down before 3-0 before we knew what hit us.”

Duchene went in on a breakaway in the second period, but he was

stripped of the puck from behind and Chicago capitalized on the

turnover seconds later.

“That was the story of the night for us, to be honest with you,”

Roy said. “You’re going a breakaway and all of sudden the puck goes

the other way.”

Duchene scored in Colorado’s 3-2 win over Winnipeg on Oct. 27,

then had two goals and an assist before scoring in the shootout of

a 4-3 victory in the second meeting Dec. 12.

Jets winger Blake Wheeler had two goals in that game after

scoring one in the first matchup.

Wheeler scored twice Friday, including the game-winner midway

through the third, as Winnipeg returned home to beat Minnesota 6-4.

The Jets (17-18-5) had dropped three of four – each loss coming on

the road – and six of eight.

“It hasn’t been an easy month,” Wheeler said. “It’s been tough.

A lot of our guys have been doing a lot of soul searching. Losing

hockey games isn’t a whole lot of fun. It’s not a whole lot of fun

to be productive in losses. You want to produce towards wins.”

The sixth-year winger has done his share of producing lately,

recording nine goals and three assists over his last 12. Wheeler

had five goals through his first 28 games.

“I think confidence plays into it,” Wheeler said. “When the puck

starts going in the net you find yourself getting into the scoring

areas a little bit more. The puck seems to bounce your way a little

bit more.”

Ondrej Pavelec could be in net for this contest despite allowing

three goals on six shots within the first 7:04 on Friday. Al

Montoya made 22 saves in relief.

“I thought Monty did a great job once he got in there,” captain

Andrew Ladd said. “The first three goals, there was nothing Pav

could’ve done about them, so it was more about trying to get some

momentum for our group on the bench.”

Pavelec, though, is 1-6-1 with a 4.10 goals-against average in

his last nine games.

The Avalanche are likely to counter with Semyon Varlamov after

Jean-Sebastien Giguere gave up each goal Friday before being pulled

to start the third. Varlamov made 13 saves.

Varlamov was in net for both previous meetings with the Jets,

beating Montoya in the first and Pavelec this month.