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Avs hope to feed off Forsberg ceremony

Saturday, 10.08.2011 / 3:06 PM
Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent
DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche expects an amped-up sellout crowd at the Pepsi Center on Saturday night when they open regular-season play against the Detroit Red Wings following a pregame ceremony in which former star Peter Forsberg's No. 21 jersey will be retired.

The Avalanche is hoping a recent trend continues; the team has won two consecutive openers after a pregame ceremony.

The Avalanche defeated Chicago 4-3 in overtime last year after honoring the 1996 Stanley Cup champion team. The year before, the Avalanche defeated San Jose 5-2 after retiring Joe Sakic’s No. 19 jersey.

"No. 1, I think there will be a lot of energy in the building," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said after Saturday's morning skate. "That's something our players will feed off of when you have something special like that going on. It's something that we can use as motivation. Not that we need any, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little more added motivation.

"The building will be electric tonight, so we need to feed off of that. If you look at the last two years with what we've done on opening night, we've been able to get off to pretty good starts as a team, so (the ceremonies) may have something to do with that."

Colorado also will honor the memories of three former Avalanche players who died this summer – Wade Belak, Ruslan Salei and Karlis Skrastins.

Several newcomers will make their Colorado debuts, including starting goalie Semyon Varlamov, first-round draft pick Gabriel Landeskog and defensemen Jan Hejda and Shane O'Brien.

Left wing Peter Mueller will play his first regular-season game since April 4, 2010 against San Jose when he suffered a concussion on a hit by Rob Blake. He missed all of last season after sustaining another concussion when he was struck with an errant stick in a Sept. 22, 2010 preseason game against Los Angeles.

"I'm excited … excited to get going and for the season to start," said Mueller, who is wearing a helmet with extra padding and a tinted visor to shade bright arena lights that can be harmful for previous concussion victims. "I'm not trying to put too much into it. I'm not trying to psyche myself out. I'm going to go out there and see what I can do and hopefully make a difference in the game."

Mueller said he felt fine during the preseason and will skate on a line with center Matt Duchene and right wing Milan Hejduk. He had nine goals and 11 assists in 15 games on that unit after his March 3, 2010 trade from Phoenix.

"I was extremely happy (with camp)," he said. "I was happy that I got through every day. Every day is a process for me. Hopefully (the line) can have the same connection that we had when I got traded here. We can be a pretty dangerous line."

The Avalanche announced that defenseman Kyle Cumiskey cleared waivers and will be assigned to Lake Erie in the American Hockey League.

Only a few Red Wings players skated this morning. The team arrived in Denver overnight after opening its season Friday in Detroit with a 5-3 win against Ottawa. Ty Conklin is expected to start in goal.
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