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Avalanche vs Wild

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Avalanche vs Wild - 2014 SCP First Round

MacKinnon takes first Stanley Cup Playoffs in stride

Friday, 04.18.2014 / 6:00 PM / Avalanche vs Wild - 2014 SCP First Round

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Patrick Roy has been watching the Nathan MacKinnon show for three years, two in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and as Colorado Avalanche coach since training camp, and it never gets old.

"I've been impressed with him from the first time I saw him play a game," Roy said Friday. "From there to now, his game goes up. He's been so receptive to teaching, he's been working hard and he's always level. I know who's going to show up tomorrow, he's going to be the same guy."

MacKinnon had three assists Thursday in his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut, when the Avalanche opened the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round with a 5-4 overtime win against the Minnesota Wild. Game 2 is Saturday at Pepsi Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN, FS-N, ALT).

Sakic 'very proud,' seeks more from Avalanche

Wednesday, 04.16.2014 / 4:51 PM / Avalanche vs Wild - 2014 SCP First Round

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Joe Sakic had one goal in mind when he accepted the position as Colorado Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations in May: Bring the franchise back to the elite status it had when he twice won the Stanley Cup as captain.

The Avalanche have a long way to go, but they took a major step this season against all odds by winning the Central Division and gaining a place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in four years. The Avalanche open the Western Conference First Round on Thursday at Pepsi Center against the Minnesota Wild (9:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, RDS, TSN, FS-N, ALT).

"There's no better playoffs than hockey playoffs, and it's great to be back in it," Sakic said Wednesday at the Avalanche's practice facility. "I'm excited for the players and obviously the organization and the fans here in Denver. I'm very proud of this group, what they've accomplished this year, but I also know that this is a group that wants more.

"The regular season's over and there's no better time than to be a fan of hockey and a player in hockey and in management in hockey than this time of year. We all shoot for the Stanley Cup. Every single player and every single team is hoping to be playing for two more months."

Why the Avalanche will win the Stanley Cup

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 2:41 AM / Avalanche vs Wild - 2014 SCP First Round

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

Patrick Roy’s incredible resume as a Hall of Fame hockey player includes twice leading an NHL team on an unexpected run to capture the Stanley Cup and twice helping the Colorado Avalanche to win the NHL's coveted championship trophy.

Roy is in his first season as a coach at the NHL level, but he's accumulated lots of playoff experience in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. With the help of a talented collection of forwards and one of the best young goaltenders in the League, Roy is in position to lead the Avalanche to a third Cup victory in franchise history.

Like the Montreal Canadiens teams in 1986 and 1993, which featured Roy in net, the Avalanche will need their goaltender to lead the way. Semyon Varlamov was a potential star while playing for the Washington Capitals, but he had a breakout season in 2013-14 under the tutelage of Roy and goaltending coach Francois Allaire.

Foundation pays dividends for Avalanche's Varlamov

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 2:39 AM / Avalanche vs Wild - 2014 SCP First Round

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

DENVER -- Even new Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy wasn't certain what to expect from goalie Semyon Varlamov this season.

"There were a lot of question marks, and I think he responded to all the question marks," Roy said. "He worked so hard. He was really determined to turn things around and play with consistency, and that's what he's been doing. He was very determined to make a turn here, and he did. I appreciate what he’s been doing since the start of the year. He’s been a difference maker."

Crediting Roy and veteran goalie coach Francois Allaire for tweaking his style and raising his confidence level, Varlamov has put together the best season of his six-year NHL career. He established a career high for wins (41), eclipsing by one the single-season franchise record Roy set in 2000-01 when the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup for the second time, and he held opponents to two goals or fewer 30 times.

X-Factor: Wild's Haula needs to provide depth up front

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 2:32 AM / Avalanche vs Wild - 2014 SCP First Round

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

Erik Haula's rookie season didn't get off to the best of starts.

The 23-year-old spent much of the first half of this season in the American Hockey League and struggled through a 12-game scoring drought in December and January shortly after being called up by the Minnesota Wild.

He was a healthy scratch in consecutive games in mid-March, but since being reinserted into the lineup on March 22, Haula has slowly started finding his stride. Lately, he has been deployed in the middle and if he can provide some much-needed depth at center, the Wild might find enough chemistry up front to get past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Why the Wild will win the Stanley Cup

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 2:31 AM / Avalanche vs Wild - 2014 SCP First Round

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

Last season, the Minnesota Wild's first Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance in five years was a short one when they lost in five games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

The Wild team that lost in the opening round last season has a different feel to it this time around. So different, in fact, that Minnesota will win its first playoff series since 2003, and the state will host a Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the Minnesota North Stars faced the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991.

A quick scan of the current roster reveals plenty of world-class talent to lead this team to the 2014 Stanley Cup championship. But, there are certain intangibles that will also assist a Cup run in the State of Hockey.

Goalie quartet has helped pave Wild's way to playoffs

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 2:29 AM / Avalanche vs Wild - 2014 SCP First Round

Dan Myers - Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo has preached taking it one game at time to his team throughout the season.

The team's goaltenders have had no choice but to accept the message as gospel.

In a roller-coaster season where the Wild's fortune has turned several times, they've gotten important contributions from goaltenders throughout, something not totally unexpected when the season began back in October.

However, the sheer number of players to step between the pipes this season has been a stunning development.

X-Factor: Rookie MacKinnon could be Avs' go-to guy

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 2:00 AM / Avalanche vs Wild - 2014 SCP First Round

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

The Colorado Avalanche could be without their top forward, the guy who was considered a Hart Trophy candidate early in the season, for the entire first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That would be a debilitating deficiency for nearly any team. So why might the Avalanche be able to survive long enough for Matt Duchene's knee to heal and for him to return to the lineup?

Rookie Nathan MacKinnon is the answer.

MacKinnon has concluded one of the best regular seasons by an 18-year-old in League history, and he might just be getting started. While other teenagers have waned near the end of their first season in the NHL because of the physical and mental grind, MacKinnon has added more responsibility since Duchene (and PA Parenteau) was injured and might be getting stronger.

Wild have new look going up against Avalanche

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 1:47 AM / Avalanche vs Wild - 2014 SCP First Round

It took until the very last day of the NHL regular season to determine that these teams would meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Colorado Avalanche became the 2013-14 Central Division champions when the St. Louis Blues lost 3-0 to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon. Led by first-year coach Patrick Roy, it was yet another remarkable achievement by the Avalanche this season after they finished with the second-fewest points in the NHL in 2012-13.

The Minnesota Wild have qualified for the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. After signing forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98 million contracts in the summer of 2012, the Wild ended a four-year playoff drought but were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round in five games.

When the puck drops on Game 1, it will be the first time the Avalanche and Wild have shared the same sheet of ice since Jan. 30. They played five games against each other in a two-month span, with two of the games requiring shootouts. Colorado finished 4-0-1 against Minnesota; rookie Nathan MacKinnon had two game-winning goals.

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