Colorado Avalanche vs. Winnipeg Jets Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 7th 2023

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It is the first meeting of the year between the banged-up Colorado Avalanche and the visiting Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. The Avalanche enter the game dealing with a rash of injuries that got worse Tuesday night in Denver during a 3-2 victory over Anaheim. Defenseman Bowen Byram left the game in the second period and did not return with an upper-body injury after being leveled by Ducks forward Max Jones. Byram is the next potential addition to a list that already includes superstar defenseman Cale Makar and forwards Valeri Nichushkin and Andrew Cogliano. Artturi Lehkonen and Samuel Girard remain on injured reserve. Coach Jared Bednar was happy to see some of his top guys step up to fill the void, with Nathan MacKinnon able to provide a goal and two primary assists in defeating the Ducks. “You need it. You got a lot of key personnel out, guys that impact the game in a bunch of different ways,” Bednar said Tuesday night. “Every line was different tonight, with those guys out of the line-up. Every single line. So you don’t know what you’re going to get. You’re looking for the right amount of effort and commitment to play a solid defensive game.” The head coach of the Central Division’s first-place team also suggested that the line-blender will continue. “You never know until you try,” Bednar said on playing MacKinnon with Jonathan Drouin and Logan O’Connor, whose line connected for two goals against Anaheim. “You don’t want to be afraid as a coach to try new things, but you also want to be able to stick with things that are working and looking good, because it gives players time to gel and go from good to great.” The Winnipeg Jets, who sit third in the Central, are in a different spot as they look for long-term consistency. Jets head coach Rick Bowness has placed Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor on the top line. They have combined for ten total points over their first three games after being reunited. “Since we’ve put them back together, they’ve been our best line,” said Bowness on Monday night after an impressive 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Winnipeg. “They’ve been creating offense every game.” Ehlers is also happy with their results but thinks there is still improvement that can be found. “We’ve got to keep skating. When we use our speed, we’re pretty dangerous,” Ehlers said on how his line can continue to develop. “Defensively … I don’t think we spent too much time (in our defensive zone), but when we do they are able to get stuck down there, so we have to clean that up a little.” Another important improving piece for the Jets is Gabe Vilardi, who continues to get his legs under him after missing six weeks recovering from an MCL sprain. He’s been back now for three games and has started to display his skills and abilities with the puck. “Each game he’s getting stronger, getting his conditioning better,” Bowness said on Vilardi’s progress. “We knew coming into this when he came back he’s missed a lot of time. He’s going to need four or five games to really feel where he should be.” –Field Level Media

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