DENVER -- They are close friends and were defense partners at Boston University for most of their three years there. They were drafted with Colorado's first two selections in the 2007 Entry Draft, left school as juniors to sign entry-level contracts with the Avalanche on the same day last April and shared a hotel room in training camp.
Not only that, Colby Cohen and Kevin Shattenkirk were competing for what appears to be just one opening on the Avalanche blue line.
That competition ended Wednesday when the Avalanche assigned Shattenkirk, the team's first pick (No. 14) in that 2007 Entry Draft, to the Lake Erie Monsters in the American Hockey League.
Cohen, the Avalanche's second pick (No. 45) in the same draft, still can't breathe easy. He still has to beat out Jonas Holos, who played on Norway's 2010 Olympic team, for that last spot.
"We knew one of us was probably staying and one of us was probably going," Cohen, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, told NHL.com of his unique competition with Shattenkirk. "If he was the one staying, I'd be happy and hope he plays well. (Now), he'll hope I'm doing well. It's not one of those things where he hoped that I played bad. We rooted for each other, but it's the nature of the business; some guys stay and some guys don't. We knew that coming in."
Cohen, who is from Villanova, Pa., was a Hockey East first team All-Star and an American Hockey Coaches Association All-American as a junior after leading all Boston University defensemen in scoring with 14 goals and 30 points in 36 games.
Like Shattenkirk, Cohen played in three games with Lake Erie after signing with the Avalanche, an experience he said has been especially helpful so far this preseason.
"Absolutely, just seeing what the next step was," Cohen said. "I'm glad I got those three games. I would have liked to have gotten more in, but the timing didn't really work out."
Perhaps Cohen's biggest edge in his competition with the smaller Shattenkirk (5-11, 193) was his play in the defensive end, an area where Shattenkirk acknowledged he needs to improve.
"I know my knock has been playing well defensively, or not playing well defensively," said Shattenkirk. "I have to concentrate on my defensive duties first and let the rest take care of itself. It's definitely a fair assessment of me, but I think I've grown and I got a lot better my last three years at BU."
Both players, who teamed up for the winning goal in overtime when the Terriers defeated Miami (Ohio) to win the 2009 NCAA championship, left BU a year early believing they couldn't achieve much more in school.
"We won a national championship my sophomore year, which is about as high as you can get in college hockey, and last year I was first team All American," Cohen said. "After that, it was a tough decision to go back. I felt like I really accomplished a lot at BU. I have a lot of respect for the program and I'm still very much in touch with the coaches. I hope they have a great season this year and I think they will. I just felt it was time to step aside."
Now, Cohen remains in the running for a roster spot with a week remaining before the Avalanche's Oct. 7 regular-season opener against Chicago.
"I think I've done all right up to this point, but it's out of my hands," he said. "It's definitely a little nerve-wracking. It's really up to the coaching staff and management staff as to how they feel and who they think is going to help the team win. Hopefully that's me. If not, I'll be in Cleveland working hard and trying to help them win.
"One way or another, I'll be playing at a higher level than I did last year. That's something to look forward to. It's a new challenge."