5 things to watch as Jets try to climb up hill against the Avalanche
Central Division foes face off Monday night at the MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg
It's another Central Division throw down for the Winnipeg Jets Monday night.
The Jets (21-21-3) are three points back on the Nashville Predators for the last wildcard spot. There are a handful of teams in the way of the Jets playoff aspirations, including the Colorado Avalanche (22-21-3).
The Jets are in the midst of a four game stretch against teams in the Central Division. Winnipeg beat Nashville in overtime on Thursday night and then downed the Wild the very next night in Minnesota with a 1-0 shutout.
Colorado is on a short two game road trip. Having just lost in Columbus on Saturday night, they'll be eager to even out their road record before they head back to the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Putting the puck in the net
Putting the puck in the net hasn't been the biggest problem for the Jets this season either. With 127 goals, the club sits 13th in the league in goals for. Bryan Little is tied with Duchene and MacKinnon with 38 points, and Blake Wheeler is sixth in the league with 13 goals and 31 assists.
The Jets are riding the hotter goalie, though, so maybe Connor Hellebuyck can be the difference on Monday night.
Hellebuyck, our hero
The Jets could have had many excuses to not win against the Wild on Friday night. Back-to-back games, no Mark Scheifele, no Drew Stafford. Instead, Paul Maurice gave Hellebuyck the chance at his second back-to-back set and he proved why the team has so much confidence in the rookie netminder.
It could come down to the goalies again on Monday night and Hellebuyck gets the statistical nod on Semyon Varlamov ahead of the game. Hellebuyck's .931 save percentage and even 2.0 goals-against average is better than Varlamov's .909 save percentage and 2.82 goals against average. Varlamov has earned four more wins than Hellebuyck's 11, but he's also started 31 games while Hellebuyck has played in 18.
Ladd feeling lucky
It hasn't been a smooth season for Jets captain Andrew Ladd. There have been lots of moments where the leader of this team hasn't looked like the leader of old. There is a possibility that off-season surgery may have slowed him down a little bit. Also, the prospect of becoming an unrestricted free agent continues to overshadow almost everything he does on the ice.
He seems to be finding an extra gear of late, though. He has had five points in his last six games, including an inspiring three assists in the Jets defeat of Nashville back on Thursday at the MTS Centre. There is a lot on the line for Ladd and the club right now and more production from him will be good for everyone.
It was a scary moment in Thursday night's game against Nashville when all-star defencemen Dustin Byfuglien was hauled down awkwardly by Predators' forward Cody Bass. It not only looked bad, but big Buff was down in pain for a long time.
Anyone who saw it thought Byfuglien was going to miss significant time. He didn't come back into that game but he travelled to Minnesota and played almost 28 minutes against the Wild.
Byfuglien leads all Jets defenceman with 11 goals and 25 points. He's in the top 20 for scoring by defenceman in the NHL, and when he wants to he can single-handedly pick up the team and turn the game's momentum in the Jets favour.
Thankfully, he's not out after that fall and hopefully he continues to be this impactful down the line.
At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, 24-year-old Tyson Barrie is by no means a big defender, but in only his second full NHL season the Avalanche blue liner is putting up big numbers. Barrie's eight goals and 22 assists have him in 10th in scoring amongst defencemen in the league. He's fourth in Avalanche scoring behind only MacKinnon, Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog.
It was even a little surprising that when the NHL announced their 2016 all-star rosters in early January. Like the Jets' star forward in Wheeler, Barrie was left off of the league's all-star roster.
Instead, Barrie's teammate Duchene will be going to the NHL All-Star Game. Chicago and Dallas each have two players representing their clubs and the host Nashville Predators have three players representing their team for the Central Division.