The Avalanche's game tonight in Toronto against the Maple Leafs is a big one for several reasons.
For starters, the contest pits two undefeated clubs against one another in the 3-0 Maple Leafs and the 2-0 Avalanche. Additionally, it will be a homecoming of sorts for several Avs players who grew up in Southern Ontario and the greater Toronto area.
|Ryan O'Reilly (#37) during the last game he played in Toronto on Oct. 17, 2011 (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images). |
"It's a huge game for us. They are 3-0, we are 2-0," said Colorado forward Ryan O'Reilly, who was born in Clinton, Ontario. "I think it is a big test for us to knock these guys off.
"It's exciting to be from here and having gone to high school in Toronto, being drafted to the OHL in Toronto, there is definitely a lot of family for me here tonight so its exciting for them to come see the game. I grew up always watching the Leafs so it would be nice to get a win against them."
Jamie McGinn is from Fergus, Ontario (roughly 70 miles east of Toronto) and like O'Reilly, will have plenty of friends and family in the stands watching.
However, McGinn stressed that the team's focus is on winning the game and beginning its three-game road trip on a high note.
"The guys are pumped up in here and there are a lot of Ontario boys on this team, and we will be playing in front of a lot of family and friends and we don’t want to disappoint," McGinn said. "We know how big of a game this is for us, and most importantly, we want to continue to win. If we stick to the game plan, it puts ourselves in a good position to do that."
With all the support in the crowd, it may be easy for the team to lose some of its focus early in the game.
To avoid that, veteran winger Cody McLeod said the club would need to control its emotions at the start.
"There are a lot of guys from the Ontario area here, so they will be excited," McLeod said. "We just need to keep our emotions under control and play a solid first 10 minutes of the game and go from there."
Tonight's matchup is the first in nearly two years between the clubs, as they last faced each other on Oct. 17, 2011 (a 3-2 win by the Avalanche).
Colorado and Toronto will see one another more often in the future because of the league's new realignment format that has every team playing each other at least twice. This season marks the first time since 1997-98 that the Avs and the Leafs will play two games.
The Maple Leafs will visit Denver on Jan. 21.
MORE MORNING NOTES
-Gabriel Landeskog will be back in the lineup after missing Colorado's last game with a leg injury. He is expected to be on his usual line with Paul Stastny and Alex Tanguay
-Semyon Varlamov will get the start in net for Colorado for the third time this season. He has a scheduled 'off game' on Wednesday in Boston before being back in the crease on Saturday against Washington.
-Also for the third straight game, Nate Guenin will be playing on defense. He will most likely be paired with Tyson Barrie.
-Paul Stastny needs one point to reach 400 career NHL points.
-Cody McLeod is expected to appear in his 399th career game tonight.
-The Avs are off to a 2-0-0 start for the first time since 2009-10 and for only the third time since moving to Denver (2001-02 was the other). Colorado has never started a season 3-0-0. Prior to moving to Denver, the Nordiques started 3-0 or better four times: 1985-86 (7-0-0), 1994-95 (5-0-0), 1992-93 (4-0-0) and 1987-88 (3-0-0).