(SportsNetwork.com) - The Winnipeg Jets are closing in on their first playoff appearance since relocating from Atlanta and can make it official with a win Thursday night in Colorado.
The Jets need two points to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since the Atlanta Thrashers made the postseason in 2007. The NHL returned a franchise to Winnipeg prior to the 2011-12 season and the city hasn't tasted playoff hockey since the original Winnipeg Jets qualified in 1996, a few months before the club was moved to Phoenix and changed its name to the Coyotes.
Winnipeg has 96 points, three more than Los Angeles for the last wild card spot in the West with two games remaining for both teams. The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings have a crucial game in Calgary on Thursday and could be eliminated from playoff contention if they lose to the Flames in regulation.
The Jets have won three straight games, all which have come without the services of star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who is serving the final test of a four-game suspension tonight. Byfuglien was banned by the league for a cross-checking incident against the New York Rangers on March 31 and will be eligible to play in his club's regular-season finale Saturday against the visiting Flames.
Winnipeg has won the first two parts of a three-game road trip, winning in Minnesota on Monday before taking down the St. Louis Blues the following night. Ondrej Pavelec posted shutouts in both victories and is expected start again tonight.
Pavelec stopped 32 shots to anchor a 2-0 win over the Wild and made 30 stops for his fourth shutout of the season in Tuesday's 1-0 victory against the Blues.
Chris Thorburn netted the lone goal in the regulation win at St. Louis. He scored at 2:31 of the second period, trailing a rush and then following up a Jim Slater rebound before beating Jake Allen on a backhander.
Pavelec made 12 stops in the first period, eight more in the second and completed his 15th career shutout with 10 saves over the final 20 minutes.
"He's our best player," Thorburn said of Pavelec. "He's in a groove."
The Jets, who improved to 20-13-7 away from home, sit two points behind Minnesota for the first wild card spot. The Wild have two games left and visit Nashville tonight.
The Avs are out of playoff contention, but won for the second time in three games with Tuesday's 3-2 home win over the Predators. Joey Hishon's first career NHL goal proved to be the game-winner for Colorado.
Hishon, a 2010 first-round pick whose career was interrupted because of concussions, broke a 2-2 tie at 7:06 of the third period, beating Nashville's Pekka Rinne on the blocker side with a wrist shot from the high slot.
"I was fortunate to get the shot off, and I'm glad it went in," Hishon said.
Jarome Iginla and Ryan O'Reilly scored nine seconds apart in the second period for the Avalanche, who got 40 saves from Semyon Varlamov.
Colorado won the Central Division last season, but will miss the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five campaigns. The Avs began a season-ending three-game homestand on Tuesday and will wrap up its 2014-15 schedule Saturday against Chicago.
The Avs are 21-15-3 as the host this season and have beaten Winnipeg in the last two meetings at the Pepsi Center. The Jets, however, have won four of five overall in the series.
Reto Berra will start in net for Colorado and is 1-1-1 with a 4.43 goals against average in his career against Winnipeg. Pavelec owns a 5-1-2 mark and a 2.06 GAA in this matchup.