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Avs Have Mixed Feelings on Playing on Larger Ice

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Playing on the larger, international-size ice can be a forward's dream and a defenseman's nightmare. The 200-by-100-foot ice sheet has 15 feet of more room on the sides compared to NHL rinks, allowing for players to have more room to possess the puck.

The Avalanche will get a feel for that style of ice this evening at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs as the team begins the first of a two-game preseason series against the Los Angeles Kings. World Arena is home to the Colorado College hockey team and is one of the few large indoor ice centers in the NCAA game.

Most members of the Avs have played on the larger ice sheet at one time or another, either in international competitions like the World Championship or Olympics or in the few North American rinks that feature the ice surface.

Czech Republic native Jan Hejda began his professional career in Europe, but the defenseman has spent the last eight years playing in the NHL and said it is tough to remember what it is like playing on the larger ice.

"From the last time I was at the World Championship in Europe, I remember it was a little easier on breakouts because there is more ice, space for defensemen to setup," Hejda said. "But at the same time it is a lot harder for penalty killing because forwards have more space…I think it is an advantage for a more skilled guy."

Avs center Nathan MacKinnon is gaining a reputation as being one the fastest skaters and skilled players in the NHL, so he will likely have an advantage tonight, right?

According to MacKinnon, that is not necessarily the case. Having played on the larger ice at the 2013 World Junior Championship and at this past spring's World Championship, he said players have the ability to hold on to the puck more but scoring from the prime areas in front of the net is tougher.

"It is so big. You have to be right in the slot to have a scoring chance. Everything is kind of to the outside," MacKinnon said. "People think that fast players will be really good, but it is tough to get a lot of opportunities on big ice.

"It is going to be fun. I think we're going to have to play a possession game here tonight. We'll have a little more time with the puck, and we'll be able to make a little more plays."

Defensemen without the puck may dislike the big ice surface because there is more area to cover opposing forwards, but when they do have the possession it should make it easier for them to clear the puck out of the zone.

Puck-moving defenseman Tyson Barrie said he couldn't remember the last time he played on international ice, but that he wants to know how his game translates.

"It will be interesting to see how it works in my advantage or disadvantage. I'm not sure," Barrie said. "It will be a fun game, and I'm actually curious to see how I feel."

Tonight will be the only game the Avs play on the larger ice sheet this year, as the team will be back at the NHL-size rink for the preseason finale against the Kings in Las Vegas on Saturday and for the start of the regular season next Wednesday.

The Avalanche may not have success on World Arena's larger sheet, but the Los Angeles Kings will also have the same problems. This will make for a fun time as the clubs try to figure out the ice and each other.

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