NHL Hockey

Jets hope to build cushion vs. Avs

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Winnipeg Jets fans wondering how long it would take No. 1 center Mark Scheifele to regain his form after missing six weeks with a shoulder injury were provided their answer on Tuesday night.

Two games.

After notching an assist in a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday afternoon in his second game back, Scheifele almost single-handedly kept the Jets from registering their first three-game losing streak of the season, scoring a goal and adding two assists -- including on the overtime winner by defenseman Tyler Myers -- in a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals.

Sitting in second place in the Central Division with 75 points, the Jets are hoping to build on the three-point cushion (not to mention the two games in hand) that they enjoy on the St. Louis Blues.

Their first chance to do so comes Friday night at the Bell MTS Place against the Colorado Avalanche, who come to town riding a two-game winning streak, including shutting out the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 on Wednesday, their 10th consecutive victory at home.

"We needed that win," Avs coach Jared Bednar told The Denver Post. "I don't know how exactly, but we found a way to get it done. We've been good here (at home). I didn't love us (against the Canadiens), but (Semyon Varlamov) comes up big and gives us a win and that's what we need sometimes from our goaltenders."

The re-emergence of Scheifele could hardly come at a better time for the Jets as two of their biggest offensive threats have recently gone cold. Both Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers have one goal each in the last three games, but it's their defensive play that has been garnering most of the attention. They are minus-7 and minus-4, respectively, during that stretch and both have had trouble getting the puck out of their zone and been prone to giveaways.

The two have been dropped down from the second line to play with center Andrew Copp on the third line. Laine, who was on the top trio with Scheifele and Blake Wheeler just three games ago, told The Winnipeg Free Press he's disappointed with his play in the last week.

"I have 'dash-7' in three games so it's not very good," he said. "Overall, I don't like my game right now, so just try to get better. That's the key, work hard and hopefully it can get better than this."

"It's nice to be able to play with Nik and now this gentleman (Copp) in the middle. He's working super hard every single shift and has a lot of skill also. I think it's going to be a good line."

The Avalanche are looking forward to seeing two of their high-profile forwards return to the lineup. Nate MacKinnon and Blake Comeau took part in the team's optional practice on Thursday. Comeau could play against the Jets and MacKinnon is a possibility for Sunday when the Avs host the Edmonton Oilers.

Updated February 15, 2018

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