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Avs Prepare For Season Opener

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Opening night is nearly upon us, as the Avalanche completed its final practice of the preseason Wednesday at Family Sports Center.

The first test out of the gate won’t be an easy one, as the Avs will be hosting a San Jose squad that won the Presidents’ Trophy a season ago after finishing with 117 points.

“We get a good test right off the hop,” said Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us. I know the guys are looking forward to the challenge; the coaching staff is. We feel prepared, we feel ready to go, and we’ll get a good gauge to see where we’re at.”

Opening night should also signal the NHL debut of two Avalanche players, Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. It’s an event the two 18-year-old centers have long been dreaming of.

“It’s a day I’ve been waiting for for a long time,” said Duchene. “I’m just thinking about going out there, doing what I’ve been doing and helping the team the best I can.”

O’Reilly echoed Duchene’s sentiments, saying he feels like he has to pinch himself whenever he thinks of making his NHL debut.

“Coming to camp I really didn’t expect it. But now I have a chance, and we’ll see what happens,” said O’Reilly.

Who’s With Who
During Thursday’s practice, Wojtek Wolski, Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk skated together wearing gray jerseys, while Cody McLeod, Matt Duchene and Marek Svatos were all decked out in blue sweaters.

Darcy Tucker, T.J. Galiardi and Chris Stewart wore white, while T.J. Hensick, Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Hendricks and David Koci had on burgundy jerseys.

Although Sacco said there are still some lineup decisions to be made in the morning, he did confirm that Duchene will be flanked by McLeod and Svatos tomorrow.

Anderson Expected To Start Thursday
Another player who should make his Avalanche debut tomorrow is goaltender Craig Anderson. The Park Ridge, Ill., native is expected to get the starting nod against San Jose.

“It’s going to be an exciting night,” said Anderson. “We just have to make sure we’re ready to go when they drop the puck.”

About Openers
The Avalanche/Nordiques franchise has posted a 16-6-7 mark in season openers, ranking third in the NHL in points-percentage during openers (.672). Only the Ottawa Senators (8-2-6) and Minnesota Wild (5-2-1) hold a better points-percentage on opening night, with both teams checking in at .688.

Colorado/Quebec is 8-3-3 (.679) in home openers.

Injury Note
David Jones (chest) will not play in Thursday’s opener against the Sharks. The forward is out indefinitely after suffering the injury in a preseason tilt against the Los Angeles Kings on Sept. 23. Jones skated on his own prior to Wednesday’s practice.

Sakic Ceremony
If you’re attending tomorrow’s season opener at Pepsi Center, be sure to be in your seat early to catch the entire Joe Sakic jersey retirement ceremony. The festivities kick off at 6:45 p.m.

Fans in attendance will receive a limited edition replica poster of the Stephen Holland painting that will be presented to Sakic. Not only that, fans will also receive a mini-banner commemorating Sakic’s storied career.

For those fans at home, Altitude Sports & Entertainment will provide coverage of the event from 6:30-8:00 p.m., which will include interviews with current and former Avalanche players, a video montage of Sakic’s career and an interview with Colorado’s long-time captain following the celebration.
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