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Duchene Expected To Play Wednesday

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
In a way, Colorado’s season has come full circle.

The Avalanche began the 2009-10 campaign with a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on opening night at Pepsi Center - an evening that doubled as Joe Sakic Night, where Colorado honored its long-time captain and raised his jersey to the rafters.

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Now, over six months later, the Avs are preparing for a first-round playoff series against that same Sharks squad.

Since opening night, the teams have had three additional meetings, with San Jose taking two decisions in regulation and the Avs earning an overtime victory just over a week ago at Pepsi Center when John-Michael Liles tipped a Ryan Wilson shot/pass by Evgeni Nabokov.

But as everyone knows, come playoff time you can throw regular season results out the window. That’s especially true when one team is as young as the Avalanche.

There’s no way to know how Colorado’s many youthful players will respond in their first postseason appearances, but we’ll find out soon enough.

And that goes for Matt Duchene too, as the rookie center will likely be available to play in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Duchene was back on his regular line with Brandon Yip and Milan Hejduk when the Avalanche practiced Tuesday morning before hopping on a flight to California.

“I thought he got through the practice fine,” said Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco. “He said he feels okay, so we’ll see how he presents tomorrow morning. If everything is as we expect, he’ll be ready to go tomorrow night.”

The center missed Colorado’s regular season finale with a torso injury suffered on April 7 in Edmonton. He tried to play through the injury last Friday against Chicago, but left the game in the first period and did not return.

Duchene recorded a point in every regular season game against the Sharks this year (1g/3a), including an assist for his first NHL point on opening night.

Mueller Update
Peter Mueller (concussion) didn’t skate this morning and will not join the Avalanche on their trip to San Jose for Games 1 and 2.

Peter Mueller will not be making the trip with us,” said Sacco. “He still is progressing well, but he’s not ready to travel with us so he’ll stay behind.”

Sacco also noted there is no solid timetable for the Bloomington, Minn., native to resume skating.

It goes without saying that the Avs would be thrilled to have Mueller back, regardless of their first-round opponent. But against the Sharks, Mueller’s presence could be even more critical. In two games against San Jose following the trade deadline, the forward totaled five points (4g/1a). That included a three-point performance (2g/1a) in the April 4 contest during which he was injured.

Fellow forward David Jones, who Sacco ruled out for Game 1 yesterday, will travel with the club to continue his rehabilitation from ACL surgery. However, Sacco labeled him as “doubtful” for Game 2 on Friday.

A New Tradition
If you're a hockey fan, you're certainly familiar with the tradition of players growing beards during the postseason. Avalanche forwards Matt Hendricks and Cody McLeod went in a slightly different direction. On Sunday night, following Colorado's regular season finale, Hendricks and McLeod broke out the clippers and are now sporting mohawks.

Click here to watch Hendricks talk about his latest haircut.
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