The Colorado Avalanche's recent inconsistency can be traced to defensive breakdowns. Turning to Semyon Varlamov in net and facing the struggling Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday night may help them turn things around.
The Jets are mired in a 1-4-3 stretch that has them fading in the Western Conference playoff race. They didn't help their cause Monday, falling 3-1 at St. Louis.
"We're trying to make that playoff push and I'm just trying to work my hardest," said Jets centre Eric O'Dell, who scored for the first time in four games since being recalled from St. John's of the AHL.
"I'm getting the opportunities. So hopefully, I can continue to play well."
Blake Wheeler leads Winnipeg with a career-high 23 goals, but he's scored once in 15 games while coming up empty in nine straight. That includes the latest meeting with Colorado after scoring four goals over the previous three matchups.
Wheeler has six goals and eight assists in nine career games versus the Avalanche, scoring twice in the Dec. 12 matchup.
Bryan Little has 11 points in his past nine meetings with Colorado, getting two assists earlier this month.
The Avalanche are 3-0-1 heading into the final meeting of the season between these new Central Division rivals.
But Colorado (44-20-5) has dropped two of three following a 6-1-0 stretch, giving up six goals in each of its last two defeats. That was the case Tuesday, when the Avalanche fell 6-3 at Montreal after surrendering four goals in the third period.
"I thought both teams played really well and the puck bounced their way," Avalanche rookie head coach Patrick Roy said.
Roy will likely opt for Varlamov after backup Jean-Sebastian Giguere stopped 30 of 35 shots against the Canadiens.
Varlamov has won six of his last eight starts, including a 33-save effort before Matt Duchene scored in overtime of a 3-2 home win over the Jets (31-30-9) on March 10.
Those players also played a vital role in a 4-3 shootout win in the last matchup in Winnipeg on Dec. 12. Varlamov made 35 saves and turned aside both of the Jets' attempts in the tiebreaker, while Duchene netted the eventual winner after scoring two goals and assisting on another in regulation.
Duchene has four goals and one assist over the past four meetings with the Jets and he's totalled five goals and 13 assists - two in each of the last two games - in his past 12 overall.
Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon is looking to build on his goal from Tuesday, which ended a 10-game drought. He leads all rookies with 23 goals and 53 points.
"For an 18-year-old kid ... I had the luxury of coaching great ones [Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh] at 18 and 19 years old and he's right there," Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien said of MacKinnon.
"He's a special player."
MacKinnon assisted on one of Duchene's goals at Winnipeg in December.