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Avs Set To Finish Road Swing In Minnesota

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
After this morning’s skate at Family Sports Center, the Colorado Avalanche departed for the Twin Cities for Wednesday’s contest against the Minnesota Wild. The game will wrap up a stretch during which Colorado plays seven straight games away from Pepsi Center.

Minnesota is coming off a monster trip of its own (fives games, 11 days), but didn’t fare nearly as well as the Avalanche has on its current road swing. The Wild lost all five games on its trip and resides in the basement of the Western Conference with a 1-6 record.

Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Petr Sykora are currently on injured reserved, but the Wild could receive a boost if Martin Havlat returns to the lineup. The high-scoring winger, who has missed the club’s last two games with a groin injury, might suit up on Wednesday.

With or without Havlat, the Avs can’t afford to take the Wild lightly.

“They’re a dangerous team. They’re well-coach, disciplined and have a great penalty kill,” said defenseman Scott Hannan. “You can’t go into any game in this league taking the team lightly. We’re going to expect a hard-fought game. We have to focus on what made us successful the last few games, and if we keep that up we’ll be alright.”

Tomorrow’s game will be the Avalanche’s second within the Northwest Division this season; the first being a 3-0 victory over Vancouver on Oct. 3.

Divisional matchups are always crucial, no matter if they come in October or April.

“Whether it’s the first game or the last game, you want to send the message that it’s going to be a tough game,” said assistant captain Paul Stastny. “The last couple years, the division has come down to just a few points, so you know that a point here or there could mean the difference at the end of the season.”

Sacco’s Thoughts on the Road Trip (So Far)
“It’s been successful. We got off to a little bit of a slow start, losing to Nashville, but we regrouped pretty quickly. We won some games in some tough buildings. To go into Boston, Toronto and Montreal, and then to finish it off in Detroit says a lot about how our guys competed over the course of the trip and says a lot about the character in that room.”

Rookies Coming Through
Through the early stages of the season, only four rookies in the National Hockey League have put up at least four points. Three of them wear the Burgundy and Blue of the Avalanche.

Leading the pack is 18-year-old Ryan O’Reilly, who sits fifth among rookies with six points (1g/5a). O’Reilly trails only New York Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto (4g/5a), New York Islanders center John Tavares (3g/4a), Dallas left wing Jamie Benn (2g/5a) and San Jose blueliner Jason Demers (0g/7a) among rookie scorers.

Del Zotto and Tavares, both 19 years old, were both first-round selections. Benn, 20, was a fifth round pick and Demers, 21, was taken in the seventh round.

Not far behind O’Reilly are fellow centers Matt Duchene (1g/3a) and T.J. Galiardi (0g/4a), who are in a group of six players tied for sixth among rookie scorers with four points apiece.

A season ago, Colorado saw 11 players make their NHL debut. Those players (Philippe Dupuis, Chris Durno, Galiardi, Matt Hendricks, Per Ledin, Ray Macias, Aaron MacKenzie, Wes O’Neill, Derek Peltier, Chris Stewart and Mike Vernace) combined for 24 points (14g/10a) in 111 NHL games.

So far in 2009-10, the four players on the Avalanche roster who qualify as rookies (Duchene, Galiardi, O’Reilly and Ryan Wilson) have already registered a combined 14 points (2g/12a) in only 26 contests.
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