This is it. The season is upon us.
Now that training camp has come to a close, the dynamic in and around Family Sports Center has begun to shift toward final preparations for the Colorado Avalanche's home opener against the Dallas Stars on Saturday at Pepsi Center.
"Camp, especially the first week, is grueling. With pretty much every coach, you're going over stuff but it's hard. I think they're there to make sure that we're in shape. All the guys were, but it's a hard week," 20-year NHL veteran Jarome Iginla said. "I think this week is more tuning up and trying to be more precise and not so much about the workload as opposed to trying to be sharp and loading up to get ready for the opening game. So it is a different dynamic."
While some clubs kickoff the 2016-17 campaign this evening, the Avalanche has two more days of practice before the season starts. That gives the club more time to work with new head coach Jared Bednar at fine-tuning specific aspects of the game the team wants to play.
Video: Jarome Iginla previews the regular season
"Every day we're working on stuff and trying to get better at it," Iginla said of the practice time. "You kind of itch to get going, but I think those practices can be good and we'll try and make the most of them."
Every minute spent preparing on the ice is a benefit to Colorado, but things seem to be trending in the right direction as the start of the year quickly approaches. The Avs were the only team to go undefeated in preseason play, and they think it is the start of something great.
"I think it's a good start for us. Some people will say, 'Oh, it's just preseason,' but to me I think it's a sign of us moving in the right direction. Guys are getting familiar with the new systems and new things that Jared's bringing to the team," said forward Blake Comeau. "You can see the guys getting more comfortable and familiar with everything, and it's less thinking and it's guys playing. So 6-0 is a good preseason. I think it's a good stepping stone, and now it's just moving forward and carrying on what we did in the preseason to the season."
The Avalanche has mostly finalized its roster, and players and coaches are working together as the season-starting team for the first time. That doesn't mean things won't change before Saturday. Injuries to John Mitchell (hip flexor) and Mikko Rantanen (ankle) will keep the lineup in flux ahead of the matchup with Dallas.
"We have a bunch of things going on, right. So we have guys skating on their own. When are they going to be ready? That's all going to get evaluated day-by-day," Bednar said on Monday. "We don't know who's exactly going to be ready Saturday night and who's not at this point. We're going to take the next few days to figure that out."
Video: Blake Comeau returns to full practice
Regardless of the minutiae of the first game's player personnel, Comeau believes that Colorado has a winning squad.
"You look at the lineup, I feel like we've got a really deep lineup from the goaltenders, defense all the way up to the forwards. It's exciting," he said. "You always feel like once the end of August, start of September rolls around, it's kind of been a long season of training. Now preseason is over, so it's time to buckle down and everyone is excited to get going and get the real season started."
According to the NHL, The Avalanche's Opening Night roster is as follows:
Tyson Barrie, Francois Beauchemin, Gabriel Bourque, Rene Bourque, Joe Colborne, Blake Comeau, Matt Duchene, Eric Gelinas, Mikhail Grigorenko, Jarome Iginla, Erik Johnson, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Andreas Martinsen, Cody McLeod, John Mitchell, Calvin Pickard, Ben Smith, Carl Soderberg, Fedor Tyutin, Semyon Varlamov, Patrick Wiercioch, Nikita Zadorov.
Injured: Mat Clark, Mason Geertsen, Reid Petryk, Mikko Rantanen.
*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.