The Colorado Avalanche begins the 2021-22 regular season on Wednesday at home against the Chicago Blackhawks.
It is the first time that the Avalanche and Blackhawks have met since Dec. 21, 2019, after Chicago remained in the Central Division while Colorado was in the West Division in the 2020-21 season. The Avs will begin their season at home for the fourth straight year, the 13th time in the last 16 seasons and for the 15th time in the last 19.
Wednesday's game marks the third time in franchise history that Colorado will face Chicago to begin a season since relocating to Denver in 1996. The Avs won both of those openers, picking up a 5-0 victory on Oct. 10, 2003, and winning 4-3 in overtime on Oct. 7, 2010.
It is the first of four contests between the Avalanche and Blackhawks this season and the first of two at Ball Arena. The teams will meet up three times in January to close out the season's series.
Colorado finished the preseason with a 2-4-0 record, while Chicago went 3-1-2 during exhibition play.
Avalanche vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Ball Arena | Denver, Colo.
Avs left wing J.T. Compher is from the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Illinois…Chicago assistant coach Marc Crawford was the head coach of the Avalanche/Nordiques from 1994-95 to 1997-98 and won a Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996…. Blackhawks defensemen Caleb and Seth Jones' father, Popeye Jones, played for the Denver Nuggets in 1999-00 and is now an assistant coach with the NBA team.
The Avalanche franchise owns a 23-11-7 (.646) all-time record on Opening Night, the second-best mark in the NHL. The team is 4-1-0 in season openers under head coach Jared Bednar after the bench boss won his first four openers as an NHL head coach prior to last year's loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Against Chicago, the Colorado/Quebec Nordiques franchise is 71-55-17 with a 55-32-11 mark since 1995-96. The teams are reuniting in the Central Division this year after competing in the Avs were in the West Division last season. With the expansion Seattle Kraken beginning play this year and joining the Pacific Division, the Central will now have eight teams with the addition of the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado will play 26 games against their division foes, meeting Chicago four times.
Colorado is now carrying 22 players, including 12 forwards, seven defensemen and three goaltenders. Blueliner Devon Toews will begin the season as an injured, non-roster player. He joined the group for the past few practices in a red, non-contact jersey as he recovers from offseason surgery. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper is expected to start between the pipes--his first for the Avalanche.
Nathan MacKinnon entered COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday and will not be available for Wednesday's game. Head coach Jared Bednar missed the final two preseason games following a positive COVID-19 test and he will once again not be available for Wednesday, but general manager Joe Sakic said he should be back for Saturday's contest against the St. Louis Blues. Assistant coaches Ray Bennett and Nolan Pratt are coaching the team until Bednar's return. Goaltender Pavel Francouz is out three-to-four weeks after suffering a lower-body injury in a preseason game Oct. 5 versus the Golden Knights. Blueliner Devon Toews (upper body) is expected to miss the beginning of the campaign while recovering from surgery.
SCOUTING THE BLACKHAWKS
Chicago begins the new campaign after finishing sixth in the Central Division in the 2020-21 regular season. The Blackhawks owned a 24-25-7 record, accumulating 55 points.
Six players on Chicago's roster are expected to make their team debuts including forwards Henrik Borgstrom, Tyler Johnson and Jujhar Khaira, defensemen Seth Jones and Jake McCabe, and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
(OPPOSING) PLAYER TO WATCH: Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews, a 33-year-old center, did not play last season while he was dealing with chronic immune response syndrome. Toews has not played a game since Aug. 18, 2020, where he scored in a 4-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round. Toews scored 60 points (18 goals, 42 assists) in 70 regular-season games in 2019-20 and added nine points in nine Stanley Cup Playoff contests in that postseason.
Colorado will start the season at home for the fourth consecutive season, the 13th time in the last 16 years and the 15th time in the last 19.
This day in Avalanche History: Oct. 13, 1999--The Avalanche opened its new home with a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins. Milan Hejduk scored the first goal in the building's history and Adam Foote notched the game-winner in the third period.
The Avalanche franchise is 28-9-4 (.732) all-time in home openers, the second-best mark (min 10 games played) behind only Minnesota (14-2-4, .800). Colorado is 16-6-3 (.700) in home openers since arriving in Denver, which includes a 14-5-2 (.714) mark at Ball Arena.
The Avalanche/Nordiques franchise has posted a .646 winning percentage (23-11-7) on opening night, the second-best record in the NHL… Gabriel Landeskog enters his 11th NHL season and 10th as team captain ... Landeskog was the youngest captain in NHL history when he assumed the role at 19 years, 286 days on Sept. 4, 2012, a title he held for four years before Connor McDavid was given the "C" at 19 years, 266 days on Oct. 5, 2016 ... Landeskog is the second-longest serving captain in franchise history behind only Joe Sakic (17 seasons overall, 16 consecutive) ... Only four other NHL players have served as captain for their respective clubs for a longer period of time than Landeskog.