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Duchene Reaching 500-Game Milestone Tonight

The 25-year-old veteran is looking for it to be a win

by Ryan Boulding @rboulding / ColoradoAvalanche.com

SUNRISE, Fla.--It was all about Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene in Thursday's win at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The 25-year-old had two goals and an assist in his 16:47 of ice time, helping Colorado leave Tampa with a 4-0 shutout victory.

Saturday's game is going to feature another healthy dose of Duchene as well, as the eight-year NHL veteran is set to skate in his 500th professional contest when the Avs take on the Florida Panthers at 5 p.m. MT.

"It feels like it's gone by quick. Some days you wake up, you feel like you're still a rookie, still 18 years old," he said following the team's morning skate at BB&T Center. "Other days you feel like you've been around 500 games, I guess. Pretty cool. Hopefully the next 500 are even better than the first."

Video: Matt Duchene talks about playing in game No. 500

Duchene will be the 20th player in franchise history to appear in 500 games and the 10th to do it with the Avalanche. He's also just the fourth player drafted by Colorado to reach the milestone in an Avs sweater, joining John-Michael Liles, Paul Stastny and Alex Tanguay.

To the co-alternate captain, starting a career in the NHL seems just like yesterday.

"I remember almost every game that first year. I think it was pretty impressionable back then," said Duchene, reflecting on his early days. "The years start to kind of blend together after that, but my first year and a half, two years, I remember a lot."

A lot in the league has evolved since Duchene played his first match on Oct. 1, 2009, against the San Jose Sharks.

"The game has changed a lot. There were still some older, bigger, slower guys when I first started," he said. "A little bit more fighting, heavy weights, things like that. Now, the speed of the game is fastest it's ever been. It's harder than ever to produce offense and you got to make sure that you're coming into the season in shape and staying in good shape. It's a tough game now."

Even as the sport gets faster and it becomes tougher to score, the Haliburton, Ontario, native still factors heavily in Colorado's offense. He recorded his first 30-goal campaign just last year and will look to continue his production this season.

With a 20-year veteran like Jarome Iginla on the club, Duchene also has someone he can look to for advice on having a long and healthy career.

"Iggy and I talk about it sometimes," Duchene said. "It's pretty impressive what he's done. He's going to hit 1,500 pretty soon. Pretty cool."

Duchene is just the third player from his 2009 draft class to reach the 500-game plateau, behind John Tavares (512) and Ryan O'Reilly (502). Only Tavares sits ahead of Duchene's goals (158), assists (222) and points (380) in that time.

Despite the warm and fuzzy feelings about reaching his milestone a night after Ben Smith hit the 200-game mark, Duchene knows the Panthers offer the final challenge on the Avalanche's current four-game road swing.

To beat Florida, Colorado will need to play as well as it did on Thursday.

"Attention to detail is the biggest thing," said Duchene, talking about the need for nightly consistency. "Just making sure structurally we're there and that we're jumping and energetic, and we're putting on the gas and getting this one."

 

GELINAS' SEASON DEBUT

Avalanche defenseman Eric Gelinas is set to make his season debut tonight when the Avs take the ice in Sunrise, Florida.

He'll be replacing veteran rear guard Fedor Tyutin, who will be out with a groin injury.

"The team is doing great. I think we had a little let down in Washington. I think it was only a matter of attention to detail and sticking to our game plan and systems and stuff, and it showed," said Gelinas, who was taking notes during the team's first four contests. "I think we got back to it in Tampa, played a really good game. The team is playing good."

Video: Eric Gelinas on making his season debut tonight

Gelinas was acquired from the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 29 in exchange for a third-round selection at the 2017 NHL Draft. He skated in six games with the Avs during the 2015-16 campaign before an elbow injury suffered on March 18 at the Calgary Flames ended his year.

"I wouldn't call it nerves or something like that. I'm anxious to get back out there. My last actual game was in March last year before I got hurt, so it's been awhile," the blueliner said. "It's going to feel good to be out there."

Gelinas spent his offseason working on getting strong and being ready for the start of training camp, but after playing in the preseason, he's been a healthy scratch through each of the Avalanche's first four games.

"In the summer, I had a real big focus on my camp and I thought I did a good job. Last year, I started off wrong, so I put myself in that situation in Jersey. My main focus was to come out here strong in the preseason, and I'm just going to keep doing the same things that I was doing in camp," he said. "It's hard. As a player, you want to be out there every night. I started in that situation, so I was just waiting for an opportunity to get back in there and show what I can do.

"I thought I had a good camp and had good preseason games. So, I just have to keep doing the same things and hopefully help the team to stay in that same direction."

The 25-year-old brings a cannon of a shot with him into the lineup and could play a role on Colorado's power play tonight.

"I think it's a big tool. I've got to use it smart. It doesn't matter how hard you shoot it, if you get a block, it doesn't matter," Gelinas said of his shooting ability. "It's just a matter of getting the puck on net and creating some opportunities or scoring chances that way. Sometimes a soft shot will create a better rebound. I think it's got to be a mix of everything and trying to keep my game simple."

His addition to the lineup is something that head coach Jared Bednar is excited about as Colorado concludes it's East Coast trek.

"I think it is a good opportunity for him. To come [into] his first [game] of the year. He played pretty well in exhibition," Bednar said. "He can give us a little bit of offense from the blue line. He has a great shot. He is going to be a hungry guy coming in for his first one. We miss a little bit of what Toots brings; he's been a really solid defender and puck-mover for us back there. He's had a real good start to the season, but for another guy to be able to jump into the lineup and bring us a little bit of energy, [it] will be nice at the end of a road trip."

Gelinas has 54 points (14 goals, 40 assists) through 162 games played.

 

OTHER MILESTONES

Matt Duchene's approaching milestone isn't the only thing Avalanche fans should be keeping an eye on. There are several other players nearing personal achievements as well.

Twenty-one-year-old forward Nathan MacKinnon, who leads the Avs with five points (one goal, four assists) through four games, needs just two more helpers to reach 100 in his career. MacKinnon has 158 points (60 goals, 98 assists) in 222 games played since joining the league in 2013-14.

Although he isn't skating on Saturday, veteran defenseman Fedor Tyutin (groin) is one helper away from 200 in his career. He has 253 points (54 goals, 199 assists) in 807 games played in the NHL.

Another player approaching a personal best--although he also isn't skating tonight--is forward Rene Bourque, who is one point away from 300. Bourque has managed to put away 299 points (151 goals, 148 assists) in 663 games during his 11 years in the NHL.

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