While the NHL officially opened up shop for the 2014-15 season last night with a handful of contests, the newest campaign for the Colorado Avalanche kicks off today with a game at the Minnesota Wild at 7 p.m. MT.
The start of a fresh year of hockey is like Christmas for fans, coaches and players alike, with excitement and energy levels as high as can be. It doesn’t matter if it is a first-year rookie, a 15-year veteran or even a player-turned-coach, the campaign-opening faceoff marks the beginning of something grandiose. It’s invigorating.
“We’re always anxious to see the puck drop,” said Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy during an interview on The Fan Morning Show on 104.3 FM on Thursday morning. “It’s always exciting, a new season. It’s a new challenge for us, and it’s going to be fun.”
|Daniel Briere |
Enthusiasm is important at the start of the year, which ends up being a grueling marathon with frequent stretches of full-out sprinting. Yet keeping calm and focused is just as imperative, as every point matters in the modern NHL.
“Keeping your composure is a big component of the first game. Every year, everybody's fired up. Everybody’s very, very emotional, and they’re going to go 100 miles an hour,” said veteran Danny Briere after practice on Wednesday. “The most important thing is to stay focused, keep your composure and try not to get too emotional in your first game, and usually you might be able to get an edge there on other guys.”
That concentration, along with proper preparation, can go a long way in the NHL.
“Last night, I was already starting focusing on how I want to see the matchup,” Roy said during his radio interview. “I’m having a lot of options. There’s a lot of combinations that I could use.
“Is it possible that (Nathan MacKinnon’s) going to be center and Ryan (O'Reilly) on the right side? There’s a lot of things we’re going to try.”
Whatever the case, tonight’s matchup will be exciting if history is any indication of success. The Avs/Nordiques franchise is the best in the league on opening night with a 19-8-7 record in the first games on the schedule. On top of that, Colorado/Quebec has gone 8-4-4 on the road to start a campaign, good for second best in the NHL.
Meanwhile, Minnesota is undefeated in regulation (11-0-2) at the Xcel Energy Center for home openers and is 7-4-2 in season openers. Although the Avs went 4-0-1 against the Wild last year during the regular season, tonight’s game will certainly be competitive.
Many expect there to be some lingering hard feelings between the two clubs over the way the first-round playoff series ended in April. Defenseman Tyson Barrie was done for the season after a knee-on-knee hit in Game 3, and the Avalanche eventually fell in Game 7. While that might be the story for some entering tonight’s contest, it certainly isn’t for Roy and his Avalanche.
“The most important thing is, Tyson has moved on,” said Roy on the radio. “These things (are) going to happen in games.
“We want to focus to have a good start. What’s revenge going to give us? Not much. I think winning those two games will be probably the best revenge we could have on these guys, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.
“The league did their job, and we have to do our job.”
Player To Watch
Colorado Avalanche forward Jarome Iginla will be one guy to keep an eye on through both games this week. The 37-year-old veteran—named an alternate captain on Wednesday—is the tamer of the Wild, historically. Iginla has 37 goals and 67 points through 71 games played against the Minnesota club, making him the highest scoring single opponent in the team’s franchise history.
Iginla spent time during the preseason playing with center Matt Duchene and winger O'Reilly but has been paired with former Calgary Flames teammate Alex Tanguay more recently. Tanguay is the second highest-scoring Avalanche forward when it comes to playing the Wild, with 16 goals and 30 assists in 59 games.
The Colorado Avalanche roster was solidified yesterday, per league rules. Here are the expected starters and scratches:
Alex Tanguay — Matt Duchene — Jarome Iginla
Gabriel Landeskog — Ryan O'Reilly — Nathan MacKinnon
Jamie McGinn — Daniel Briere —Maxime Talbot
Cody McLeod — Marc-Andre Cliche — Dennis Everberg
Brad Stuart — Erik Johnson
Nick Holden — Tyson Barrie
Jan Hejda — Nate Guenin
Ryan Wilson, Zach Redmond, Jesse Winchester (head).