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Jets In Must-Win Territory Against Avs

By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck

With 70 games in the books for the Winnipeg Jets this season their mission remains the same: win or die trying.

That won’t be easy, however, as they welcome the Colorado Avalanche (44-20-5) to the MTS Centre on Wednesday night. The Avs, fresh of a 6-3 defeat to the Montreal Canadiens last night, will be looking for redemption against a Jets (31-30-9) team that desperately needs to win.

“We need to have a good start,” said Michael Frolik. “We know they got some skill, against them we need to be physical and move your feet. That is going to be the key to tonight.”

Winnipeg Jets forward Michael Frolik (67) battles Colorado Avalanche forward John Mitchell (7) for the puck in NHL action at the MTS Centre, Dec. 12, 2013. SHAWN COATES PHOTO

Winnipeg Jets forward Michael Frolik (67) battles Colorado Avalanche forward John Mitchell (7) for the puck in NHL action at the MTS Centre, Dec. 12, 2013. SHAWN COATES PHOTO

The Avs’ lineup boasts five players with 20 goals or more this season and sit in the upper echelon of teams in terms of total goals scored over the course of this year. Containing guys like Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene will be priority No. 1 for the Jets.

“They got some good players — some really skilled players — that it is going to be a job for us just to shut them down,” said Bryan Little. “But one of the advantages we have is that we are a really fast team too. We have some of the faster players in the league in this dressing room. It is going to be speed-on-speed tonight.”

The Jets have won just two games this season when an opposing team is playing the second game of a back-to-back. According to Little, the idea that back-to-backs affecting teams negatively is just a myth.

“I don’t think when you play a team back-to-back that it really matters any more — teams are in such good shape,” said Little. “Everyone has to deal with them so everyone is used to them.”

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien (33). SHAWN COATES PHOTO

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien (33). SHAWN COATES PHOTO

Meanwhile, the Jets will be without the services of forward Dustin Byfuglien tonight. Byfuglien missed the morning skate and head coach Paul Maurice confirmed that his star would miss Wednesday’s tilt but did say he expected Byfuglien to be back for Saturday’s contest against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Other news out of the infirmary was light. Ondrej Pavelec is still day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He worked out with Jets’ goaltending coach Wade Flaherty before the Jets took to the ice for their pre-game skate and Maurice said he was moving better.

Jim Slater was also absent for the skate. Slater is day-to-day with a suspected foot ailment but wasn’t at the rink this morning due to personal reasons.

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