The Colorado Avalanche opens its 21st season in Denver on Saturday night, hosting the Dallas Stars at 7 p.m. at Pepsi Center. The Oct. 15 opener is the latest in franchise history, and the Avalanche is one of the final three NHL teams--along with the Arizona Coyotes and the Vancouver Canucks--to open their respective schedules.
The Avalanche was the only team to finish the exhibition slate without a loss, going a perfect 6-0-0, and while preseason results carry little-to-no weight, the club will look to take that momentum and turn it into a strong start to the regular season.
"I think it's important that we establish our identity at home and that we're a very difficult team to play against at home," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "That we play the way we want to play, we're dictating the game. To be able to try and establish that early in Game 1, I think is great for our group."
"We were 6-0, but preseason is preseason. It's the past. It's history. No one is going to look back and ask us about the preseason anymore," added Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov. "Now it is the real deal. It's going to be different games, for sure. A little more pressure. Right now, we all know how to play the system because we've played a couple exhibition games. Everybody knows what they're doing on the ice and ready to play."
Video: Altitude TV previews Saturday's matchup
Saturday's game will mark the sixth time since moving to Denver that the Avs have faced the Stars in their season opener, their most common opening-night opponent. Colorado is 39-27-8-8 in 82 games played against Dallas since the 1995-96 season and 21-10-5-5 on home ice. Over the last five seasons, the Avs hold a 14-5-2 record in the series, and they're 11-2-1 in the last 14 meetings.
Nathan MacKinnon is slated to center the Avalanche's top line, flanked by captain Gabriel Landeskog and Jarome Iginla, while Carl Soderberg, Mikhail Grigorenko and Matt Duchene will make up Colorado's second line. Grigorenko is coming off a strong preseason in which he led all Avalanche skaters and tied for the league lead with four goals in five games played.
Joe Colborne will center Gabriel and Rene Bourque on Colorado's third line, and Ben Smith, Blake Comeau and Andreas Martinsen will comprise the fourth line.
Landeskog led all Avalanche skaters with three goals and six points against Dallas last season and was tied for first (along with Minnesota's Charlie Coyle and Winnipeg's Mark Scheifele) in the NHL in scoring against Dallas. MacKinnon (one goal, three assists) and Soderberg (two goals, two assists) each chipped in four points in the 2015-16 season series.
Varlamov is set to make his season debut in net. The 28-year-old netminder has won 10 consecutive regular-season starts against Dallas dating back to the start of the 2013-14 season, going 10-0-0 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
After finishing the 2015-16 campaign with a 2.81 goals against average and .914 save percentage, Varlamov is aiming to return to the form of the Vezina Trophy finalist he was in 2013-14.
"I don't want to put any extra pressure on myself," Varlamov said. "I know inside what I expect from myself. To be on top of my game all the time when I step on the ice. Every game, I'm going to try to win and help this team make the playoffs this year."
Tickets can still be purchased for Saturday's season opener, and the game can be watched live on Altitude with the pregame show beginning at 6 p.m. MT. Altitude Sports Radio AM 950 will begin coverage at 6:30 p.m.
"I'm excited, just like the players are, to get going. It's been a long summer and a long training camp," said Bednar. "We've put the work in."
*Coming to Opening Night? With construction going on in and around the arena, including the closure of 12th Street, we anticipate increased travel times. Please make sure to leave early and give yourself plenty of time to arrive. Plan accordingly so you don't miss a minute of the excitement. The puck drops at 7 p.m. as we look forward to the #NextEra of Colorado Avalanche hockey.