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Avs Goalies Play Well in Season-Opening Loss

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Preseason performances don't mean a whole lot in the NHL, but for a goalie looking to silence doubters and prove he belongs in the mix of a club's netminding tandem, having a good showing in the exhibition slate is a solid first step.

Reto Berra wanted to do just that and more after having a rough start to his Avalanche career last season. He only played in two games with Colorado after being acquired from Calgary at the trade deadline last March, but he gave up seven goals in 71:51 of work in the crease.

Berra

Berra worked hard this past offseason with Avalanche goaltending coach Francois Allaire to improve his technique, and he seemed to show improvement in the preseason by registering a 2.18 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in four games.

But the preseason is the practice test and the regular season is the real exam where netminders need to show if they are up to the challenge from opposing skaters giving it their all every shift.

It was only 20 minutes of relief work in the third period, but Berra appeared to be on the right track on Thursday night in the Avs' 5-0 loss at the Minnesota Wild. The Swiss goalie stopped all 10 shots he faced and made some strong point-blank saves against some of the Wild's best players.

Varlamov

Starter Semyon Varlamov also played well as he made 33 saves in the first two periods, but it was just one of those nights in an 82-game season where the other team was coming fast and furious, making it tough for the Avs offense to create opportunities on the other side of the ice. Varlamov stopped 16 shots in the first period and 17 in the second before being replaced by Berra at the start of the final stanza.

"Varly played great," said forward Jarome Iginla. "There were a lot of point blank chances, chances that we know we can't give up."

Game No. 1 of the season goes down as a loss for the Avalanche, but it wasn't because of the strong performances by Varlamov and Berra against a buzzing Minnesota squad.

"I have a lot more to worry about than our goaltenders right now," said head coach Patrick Roy, who pointed to his team's compete level and offensive troubles after the game as areas that need to be fixed before it faces the Wild again in less than 48 hours.

If the Avs can put together a better offensive attack and receive another solid goaltending effort, redeeming themselves and getting their first win of the season will be strong possibilities on Saturday night in the rematch in Denver.

Making Their Debuts

Opening night was the official debut for several Avalanche players as Daniel Briere, Dennis Everberg, Iginla and Brad Stuart were playing in their first games in burgundy and blue.

While Briere, Iginla and Stuart were just making their Avs debut after having more than a decade of experience each in the league, it was a more special night for Everberg as he was playing in his first NHL game.

Everberg, 22, is from Vesteras, Sweden and began Thursday by playing on the Avs' fourth line with Marc-Andre Cliche and Cody McLeod. The winger is one of the few players in the NHL that is listed as a right wing but has a left-handed shot.

He came to Colorado after playing five years with Rogle's pro and junior teams in Sweden, which included him tallying a total of 25 goals and 45 points last season in the Allsvenskan professional league.

Everberg finished his NHL debut with three shots and a blocked shot in 7:56 of ice time.

Same Faces, Different Location

The Avalanche and Wild meet again on Saturday night at Pepsi Center in the second of the home-and-home series to begin the 2014-15 campaign.

Having the opportunity to face the Wild again so early in the year is something the Avs are glad about after suffering the shutout loss in the season opener.

"That's a tough game, but it's nice we don't have to wait too long," Iginla said. "We'll get a chance to be a lot better than we were tonight."

Game time for the Colorado home opener is set for 7 p.m. MT.

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