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Colorado Gets Ready For Vancouver

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Still coming down from the excitement of Thursday night’s game - which saw Joe Sakic’s jersey heading to the rafters and was followed by a rousing 5-2 win over a tough San Jose Sharks club - the Avalanche skated Friday morning at Family Sports Center.

“Everybody did a great job of taking the emotion that was associated with that ceremony and channeling it into the game, and it showed,” John-Michael Liles said after Friday’s practice. “We played with passion, we played with fire, and I was happy that we could come out with a win on such a historic night.”

Colorado will host division rival Vancouver on Saturday afternoon (1:00 p.m/Altitude), returning to game action just 41 hours after dropping the first puck of the 2009-10 season against San Jose.

Coming off such an emotionally draining game, the club knows what it needs to do to avoid a letdown against the Canucks.

“We just have to do the same thing. We have to be focused,” said Liles. “It’s an early game, so you don’t have the luxury of a morning skate. You have to come to the rink prepared. We like to say that whoever wakes up first in an afternoon game is usually going to win.”

There is a break on the horizon for the Avs. After tomorrow’s game, they don’t play again until a Thursday, Oct. 8 contest in Nashville.

Killing It
One of the reasons Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly are playing in the NHL as 18-year-olds is their versatility.

Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco has often singled out O’Reilly’s penalty killing abilities (calling him the team’s best penalty killing forward in the preseason), while also praising Duchene’s all-around game.

Courtesy of, following are two clips of O’Reilly and Duchene on the penalty kill that demonstrate what Sacco has been touting.

In the first clip, O’Reilly takes the faceoff, which almost immediately results in the Avs clearing the puck out of their defensive zone. Later on, Duchene wins a battle with Ryane Clowe along the boards and clears the puck himself. On the ensuing San Jose rush, a Joe Thornton pass near center ice hits Cody McLeod in the skate and Duchene is the first to the loose puck. He then applies enough pressure to keep the puck in the Sharks’ defensive zone, killing a off a few extra seconds of San Jose’s man-advantage.

Clip #1

In the second clip, O’Reilly is extremely active during the kill, constantly moving his feet. Shortly after O’Reilly exited the ice, Duchene came on and continued the aggressive kill. At the end of the clip, Duchene steals the puck from Joe Pavelski, then makes a move around Marc-Edouard Vlasic and heads to the net for a scoring chance, where Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov poke-checks the puck away.

Clip #2

As far as Sacco’s thoughts on the youngsters’ play last night?

“I thought as the game went on they started to get more comfortable and their play showed it. Matt started to use his speed more effectively as the game went on and he had a few chances because of that. He challenged the defensemen and was strong on the forecheck.

“I thought Ryan was strong on the penalty kill again. He played his role. He was the fourth-line centerman last night, but he got some good quality minutes. He was responsible in his defensive zone, and that’s got to be part of his game.”

Anderson In Goal Again
Netminder Craig Anderson will receive his second consecutive start on Sunday when Colorado takes on Vancouver. Sacco said he thought his goaltender “looked real strong” against San Jose.

“He came up big in the third period,” said Sacco. “They had a full two-minute, five-on-three advantage, and I think he made about six quality saves during that five-on-three.”

Crowd Provides Boost
From the moment Sakic first appeared on the Jumbotron, all the way until he left the ice after his number was raised to the rafters, Thursday night’s pre-game ceremony was jam-packed with emotion.

But even after the sprawling, moving tribute to Sakic, the Avalanche fans in attendance still had plenty of energy left over. Every player in the locker room, both Thursday night and continuing into Friday morning, talked about the kind of lift they received from the sold-out Pepsi Center crowd.

“It was a lot of fun. When it’s sold out at the Pepsi Center it’s great,” said Darcy Tucker, who netted the game’s first goal. “They were chanting Joe’s name during the ceremony, and you could just feel the energy in the building. We really fed off that.

“But we have to make sure whether there’s 10,000 people or if it’s sold out, we have to play the same way. We need to have the same energy we did last night and continue to do that all season long. If we do that, I think our fans will appreciate it.”

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