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Apr 12, 2024 4:17 pm

With eye on home-ice advantage, Jets tangle with Avs

Winnipeg Jets

After 79 games, the Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche are tied in the standings and are playing for home-ice advantage in the first round.

Winnipeg (49-24-6, 104 points) and Colorado (49-24-6, 104 points) will face off Saturday afternoon in Denver. The winner of Saturday’s clash will grab control of second place in the Central Division and home ice in the likely first-round matchup between the teams.

If the Jets prevail — as they have in the first two games in the season series — they would have all but sewn up at least a second-place finish. They hold the tiebreaker (regulation wins) and have won the season series no matter what happens on Saturday.

It didn’t look like Winnipeg would be in a position to finish second — or first, should it win out and the Dallas Stars lose their remaining two games — heading into April.

The Jets followed a 0-5-1 finish to March by winning five in a row to tie the Avalanche, who are 3-4-1 since they had posted a nine-game winning streak in March.

Winnipeg is coming off of an impressive 3-0 win at Dallas on Thursday night. Backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit turned aside 24 shots for his third shutout of the season.

“That’s the game we want to play,” Jets coach Rick Bowness said after the win. “That team’s a great hockey team over there, obviously. We knew we had to bring our A-game out there on every shift and we did. That’s the way we want to play and we’re going to.”

Colorado will control its fate with a win on Saturday but has a much tougher remaining schedule than Winnipeg. The Avalanche visit defending champion Vegas on Sunday and host Edmonton on Thursday. The Jets host Seattle and Vancouver on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.

Colorado likely will get back one important piece for Saturday. Mikko Rantanen (concussion protocol) and Miles Wood (lower-body injury) participated in the full practice on Friday afternoon, with Rantanen probable after missing one game. Wood is doubtful to return; he has missed the past two games.

The sidebar to the battle for home ice is the chance that Nathan MacKinnon can win the Hart Trophy as the league MVP. MacKinnon has a career high in goals (51) and points (137) but is four points behind Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov.

His coach, Jared Bednar, thinks MacKinnon is deserving not just for the point total but because he’s a 200-foot player and an intense leader.

Jonathan Drouin has set a career high in points at 56 playing mostly on MacKinnon’s line this season.

“His leadership doesn’t turn off,” Bednar said of MacKinnon. “It’s every day, the way he approaches the game. All of our new guys are sort of blown away by it when they get here. It can be off-putting sometimes. But that is the way he is.

“One thing he is going to do is lead by example. All of his other strengths and weaknesses aside, if you want to learn how to be a good pro, that’s what you do. You just watch Nate.”

–Field Level Media

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