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Colorado Avalanche Mailbag: Feb. 24

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
We’re back with the latest edition of the Colorado Avalanche Mailbag , where players respond to fan questions.

As always, your questions are in bold. If we feel the need to provide some additional commentary or clarification, that will come in italics before the player gives his answer.

Now, on to the Q&A:

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Hey Matt (Duchene)! I think I speak for all Avs fans when I say I’m glad your injury wasn’t as serious as first thought. I wanted to get a little info on your younger years, specifically, when did you begin to really get noticed and game some exposure? Obviously by the time you reached Brampton you were well known. How long before that were people really sitting up and taking notice of your play?
Dan from Knoxville, Tennessee

As you probably realize from reading the Mailbag, Matt always has a lot of interesting stories. Every time we speak with him, we learn something new. Matt said that he really started to get noticed during his second year of playing Bantam hockey.

“I was always one of the top guys on my team, but nobody really pays much attention before you start getting scouted. I think the first time I noticed was two years before my draft year when we were at the Sudbury Big Nickel Tournament. That’s when all the agents are approaching the kids. I remember after one game it was unbelievable. I was at the rink an extra hour because so many people were talking to my dad. That was the first time I really noticed it. I also committed to Michigan State that year too. Obviously I didn’t end up going, but at that time it was the right move for me. It didn’t end up working out, but that obviously got a little bit of attention too.”

I was wondering if during the offseason the players watch what they eat and/or change their diet much?
Nick from Topeka, Kansas

Although he admits to sneaking some Burger King every now and then, we asked Brandon Yip to talk about his dietary/eating habits.

“We for sure watch what we eat, especially during the summer. You want to watch what you eat all year, but it all depends on your training program. If you’re trying to gain weight, you want to eat lots of protein and have four or five meals a day. Obviously you want it to be very healthy food so you get your body fat down for camp. That’s pretty much the plan for me, but I know other guys who try to lose weight in the summer. They really have to watch what they eat and take in a lot of vegetables. It goes on all year, you have to maintain and watch what you eat.”

My question is for rookie Cameron Gaunce. What has it been like, joining the Avalanche after playing most of the year with the Monsters? How much more quickly do you learn about the game when you’re “thrown into the fire” in the NHL?
Timofey from Kalisz, Poland

“Playing in the AHL, I really thought I learned a lot down there. The coaches did a great job with me. So far here, I think I’ve been doing pretty well for myself. You do have to learn pretty quick, especially that game in Nashville when I went from pre-game skate in Cleveland to playing in Nashville. It’s a big change, but it’s a lot easier when you have great players around you like we do here. The coaches are taking things slow with me and have been helping me out a lot, plus the guys have been very nice to me.”

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To Ryan O’Reilly: Is there a current player in the NHL that you look at and try to play like? I know you have lots of room and time to grow, but your game reminds me of some of the really good defensive forwards in the league, like John Madden or even your new teammate Jay McClement.
Michael from Roseville, Minnesota

“There are a lot of good players that I try to model my game after. One of my favorite players to watch is Henrik Zetterberg. I love watching him play and would love to be anything close to the player he is. He’s so effective all over the ice. Just watching him, he’s always positioned in the right spot and he makes one little play that opens up the whole ice for other players to make plays. I would love to be a player who is that effective. I can definitely get better offensively and defensively too. It’s one of those things where I have to keep working every day and try to get better in those areas.”

My question is for (Matt) Duchene. Your goal against Nashville was the play of the week on the Avalanche’s website and came off a big slapper. That goal was one of the few times I’ve seen you use a slap shot. Have you thought about taking advantage of your slap shot more often?
David from Bern, Switzerland

David, you’re not the only one wondering about that, as you’ll see shortly. As a point of reference, Matt claims that he’s only scored four slap shot goals in the past four years – one this season, one at the World Championships last year and two during his second season playing in the OHL.

“It’s funny, my dad says the same thing to me. He got really mad at me after that game and asked me why I don’t take slap shots more. For me, I don’t take many because sometimes I feel awkward taking them. On that one I had enough speed and had it in stride, so it didn’t feel physically awkward to shoot it like that. I’m looking for it and I’m trying to add it to my game. With the type of player I am, I don’t have many opportunities to take slap shots. Usually I’m trying to challenge with speed instead of shooting. It’s something I’m trying to add to my game more, so I’m working on it.”

My question is for Jay McClement. Jay, I’ve always been a big fan of yours from your days with the Blues and was sorry to see you go. I was wondering about your mindset heading into the game against the Blues. It’s not often that you see a player get traded and then play his old team in the next few days. Being a product of the Blues organization, what are your thoughts heading into it?
Art from St. Louis, Missouri

This question was posed to Jay on Monday, just before the Avalanche flew to St. Louis for Tuesday’s game against the Blues. Colorado ended up winning that contest by a 4-3 count.

“I was thinking I didn’t want it to be so quick. It would be nice to wait a little while, but I think it will be good to get it over with and get the first one out of the way in St. Louis. I’m going to be back there quite a bit, hopefully. It’s going to be weird seeing all the guys I played with for the last little while, but I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know what to think about it right now, but once the game gets started I think it’ll be fun.”
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