News and notes from Colorado Avalanche practice.
There’s one thing now on the horizon for the Colorado Avalanche: the Minnesota Wild.
“Opening night, it’s always exciting,” Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said after practice on Wednesday. “You’ve been waiting for this for months, pretty much since April… So we’re excited. Opening night, especially being able to start off at home, it’s always a little special.”
“As soon as the schedule comes out, you know when your first game is,” defenseman Nate Guenin added. “All that work you do in the offseason and during camp, this is what it’s for. This is when it counts. Preseason is over, and now we start keeping score.”
This one game is the measuring stick for all of the off-ice preparation, all of the work at the rink, all of the hours spent planning and skating and stretching and lifting and shooting and stick-handling.
“We want to have a good start,” said head coach Patrick Roy. “We want to show our fans that we’re ready for this year, and [there’s] nothing better than playing a really good game in front of them.”
Naturally there will be nerves, the tinges of excitement and pangs of anxiety as the hours, minutes and seconds tick away until puck drop. Energy surging is the norm.
“It was like this as a player, it’s the same thing as a coach,” Roy said. “You always want to do well the first game.”
“I think something’s wrong if you don’t get nervous before,” center Carl Soderberg added. “You’re excited. It’s starting again. Then after a couple of games you’re [saying], ‘Oh, another game,’ but right now it’s so exciting. I think we just want to go.”
Opening night will also serve as a jumping off point for a largely new-faced Avalanche team.
“We’ve seen how important the start is over the last couple of years, and definitely just like any team in any league you’re going to focus on having a good start to kind of get you going in the right direction,” Landeskog said. “For us, we feel like we’re focusing on tomorrow night’s game and that will be step one, and then after that we’ll reassess and get right back into it for Saturday. But for now, it’s the Wild tomorrow night.”
Following Wednesday’s final preparatory skate, Roy said his previous lineup announcement wouldn’t change.
One of the players set to make his Avalanche—and NHL—debut is 18-year-old Finnish forward Mikko Rantanen, who impressed the coaching staff with his play during camp and the preseason.
“The thing I wanted to see is the physicality of the game, could he handle it? And he did,” Roy said of Rantanen. “He played with men last year in Finland, and he’s strong out there. He’s playing hard. The thing I like about him is he’s not afraid to go inside. He brings the puck to the net. He stands in front of the net. Those things are important to me. The X’s and O’s, I’m not worried [about them]. We’ll work with him. He’s probably going to make some mistakes tomorrow night, but I don’t care. We’re going to work with him.”
Expected player combinations are as follows:
Blake Comeau—Matt Duchene—Jarome Iginla
Gabriel Landeskog—Nathan MacKinnon—Alex Tanguay
Mikko Rantanen—Carl Soderberg—Borna Rendulic
Cody McLeod—John Mitchell—Jack Skille
Francois Beauchemin—Erik Johnson
Nate Guenin—Tyson Barrie
Nikita Zadorov—Nick Holden
Brad Stuart—Brandon Gormley
*Grigorenko will be a healthy scratch, according to Roy.