The Colorado Avalanche have yet to lose four consecutive games this season.
Preventing that from happening is the task at hand when the Western Conference regular-season champs finish a road trip on Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets (35-32-11, 81 points).
Colorado (55-17-6, 116 points) is riding a three-game losing skid capped by Friday’s 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s only the second time this season the Avalanche have dropped three straight encounters.
“I didn’t love our first few minutes of that game and then I thought we really started to play,” coach Jared Bednar said. “A couple of turnovers and I’d say a handful or just over a handful of execution problems cost us that game.”
As favorites to win the title, they are well aware the time is at hand to find their form with only four regular season games remaining.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot a lot of the time,” forward Nathan MacKinnon said. “I feel like a lot of those goals are preventable. … It doesn’t matter who’s in the lineup, we can be good with the puck, all of us are NHL-caliber players, we can make smart decisions. Regardless of the guys we’re missing and regardless of the standings, we’re trying to get better, and we need to definitely improve.”
The Avalanche need two points to set a franchise record for most points in a season. That quest is secondary to having their game on track in time for an expected lengthy Stanley Cup run and having a healthy lineup.
They have a trio of defensemen out due to injury in Erik Johnson, Ryan Murray and Devon Toews, as well as captain Gabriel Landeskog. Forward Mikko Rantanen has also missed the last two games due to illness.
The Jets return home after a disastrous road trip. Their playoff hopes were razor thin when they embarked on a six-game road swing two weeks ago, and were completely destroyed by the current four-game losing skid, which includes a 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
The Jets, who missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign, appeared on their way to major success when they reached the conference final in 2018, but have fallen well short of expectations in four consecutive seasons.
“It just feels like we’re back to square one,” captain Blake Wheeler said. “We built so long to get to a championship level and sitting here is pretty deflating.
“This is the best part of the year to be a hockey player, except when you’re in our shoes. Then it’s the worst,” Wheeler added. “It’s really disappointing.”
Winnipeg, which blew a 2-0 lead against the Hurricanes, has a disappointing 2-7-1 record in its last 10 outings.
“We’re in the business to win hockey games. When you don’t win hockey games, disappointment will resonate,” interim coach Dave Lowry said. “These guys care, and that’s the biggest thing. And when you lose, you don’t like to lose.”
Now, instead of looking forward to the Stanley Cup chase, the Jets will play out the regular season with four home games that will have no impact on the championship chase.
“One thing you can control as you get to these last four games of the year is your effort,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “You can control how you’re going to go out.”
–Field Level Media