High-flying Jets ready for Avalanche (Nov 29, 2017)
The Vegas Golden Knights have gotten a lot of attention for their start. It's rare that an expansion team is in first place more than a quarter through the season, but that's where Vegas sits in the Pacific Division.
That quick start has overshadowed other teams' starts, and one in particular -- the Winnipeg Jets.
Winnipeg (15-6-3) is second in the Central Division with 33 points, only two behind the St. Louis Blues, heading into Wednesday's matchup with the Colorado Avalanche.
The meeting at Pepsi Center is the first of the season between the teams and is a chance for the Jets to beat a division rival for the second time in three nights. Getting separation, even in November, is vital.
"These are critical points now," Jets center Matt Hendricks told The Winnipeg Sun. "You talk about the ones in March and April, but these points are in my opinion just as important. There's a lot of great talented teams right now and a lot of teams playing well in our division."
The game is the first of four meetings, and both will be missing key players. Winnipeg goaltender Steve Mason suffered a concussion in Saturday's loss to San Jose and is on injured reserve; Connor Hellebuyck will likely get the start.
Colorado (11-9-2) gets back top goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who missed four games due to illness, but has lost captain Gabriel Landeskog. The NHL suspended Landeskog four games for his hit to the head of Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk in Saturday's loss to the Flames.
Landeskog crosschecked Tkachuk on the body and the head was assessed a minor penalty. He said he apologized to Tkachuk on his next shift.
"It caught him in a bad spot and it's unfortunate," he said. "I'm glad he didn't get hurt and the suspension is what it is."
Landeskog said he would not appeal the decision by the league office after a conversation with NHL Safety director George Parros on Monday.
"It's unfortunate, it's frustrating and disappointing, but at the end of the day I'm responsible for what I do out there, and that stuff shouldn't happen on the ice and I know it," Landeskog told HockeyBuzz.com on Tuesday. "I respect George's opinion and his decision."
Landeskog is tied for third on the team in points with a team-high nine goals and eight assists while playing mostly on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. With Landeskog out, Sven Andrighetto will likely move up to play left wing on the line.
Andrighetto has been playing on the second line, and his spot will be taken with the return of rookie Tyson Jost, who was recalled Sunday from San Antonio of the AHL. Jost was on a conditioning assignment after missing 10 contests in a 12-game stretch with lower-body injuries.
Wednesday is a critical game for the Avalanche, who are in the midst of a five-game homestand. It was during a similar stretch last season that they went on a stretch of losing 26 of 30 games, and they are trying to prevent another collapse.
Colorado will have to play well against a Jets team that is getting balanced scoring from its four lines, including major contribution from the fourth line.
The trio of Matthieu Perreault, Hendricks and Joel Armia has helped key five wins in the last seven games. In that time Perreault has five goals and seven points, Armia has one goal and six points and Hendricks has a goal and two assists.
"On the board, we're the fourth line, but on the ice we don't feel like it a fourth line. We feel like we can produce every night and outplay every match we have," Perreault told The Winnipeg Sun. "It's a great matchup for us every night."
The Jets hope their production can continue and they rack up points early in the season.
"Obviously, these divisional games are huge," defenseman Josh Morrissey told The Winnipeg Sun. "You have to be ready for every game, but when you look at it in the standings and points-wise, these division games mean more down the line."