EDMONTON, Alberta – There is nothing like returning home and playing in front of family and friends. Defenseman Nick Holden will be doing that tonight at Rexall Place when the Avalanche squares off against the Edmonton Oilers.
This isn't the first time Nick Holden has been to Edmonton this season, but that doesn't take away from the experience of coming back to where he grew up.
"Because we only come here a couple times a year, every time you come home it's special," Holden said. "You get to visit with the family the night before, go for supper, enjoy their company, and then the next night get to play in front of them, which is always special."
Last time Colorado was in Alberta's provincial capital, it was a night the team wound likely want to forget but probably not for Holden. The Avs lost to the Oilers 8-2 on Dec. 5, but Holden scored his second career goal in only his seventh game with Colorado and 14th of his NHL career.
Holden was fighting to be a regular on the Avalanche's defense at the time of his last visit to Edmonton, but that's not the case now. He has played in Colorado's last 14 games and 37 of the last 39 contests, and one of those two games he missed was so he could be at the birth of his child.
He has also been a key contributor for offense from the back end as he is second among Avs defensemen in goals with 10 this season.
After arriving with the team on Monday, Holden was able to see his parents and other family members as he went back to his hometown of St. Albert, Alberta, located roughly nine miles (or 14.6 kilometers) northwest of the city Edmonton.
"I went to my mom's and dad's place for supper, and we had all the family over and it was awesome," Holden said. "Whenever you get to come home and see your family it's special, especially during the year because you don't get to see them at all. You make the most of the time that you get."
Now that the Avs and Oilers are no longer in the same division due to realignment, Colorado may not always be making two trips to Edmonton in future seasons.
However for now, Holden said he is just glad his family gets the chance to watch him play live in the NHL.
"Growing up they always give you so much support and love for your hockey," he said. "To see them at this level in-person is very special."
AVALANCHE SPOTLIGHT ON: JEAN-SEBASTIEN GIGUERE
Colorado goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere will be in goal tonight in what might be his final start of the regular season.
After tonight's game, Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said Semyon Varlamov would play Thursday in Vancouver and Reto Berra will start Friday at San Jose. Roy said he hasn't decided which netminder will play the regular-season finale on Sunday in Anaheim, but that it will likely be decided on where the Avs are in the standings.
If Colorado is still in a hunt for a division title or fighting off Chicago for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, then the usual starter Varlamov would probably take on the Ducks. But if the Avs can't improve their standing on the final day of the regular season, then Giguere could very likely get the nod in net.
Giguere is in his third season with the Avalanche and has primarily been a backup and mentor to Varlamov, but he has given the team a chance to win nearly every game when he has played or when Varlamov has struggled.
He enters tonight's game with a 10-6-0 record, 2.71 goals-against average and .910 save percentage this season.
MORE MORNING NOTES
- Roy said he would go with the same lineup as he did on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, meaning defenseman Ryan Wilson will be playing forward on the Avs' fourth line. Wilson is likely to be paired with Brad Malone and Paul Carey.
- PA Parenteau took part in morning skate, but he will not play this evening against the Oilers. Roy said he is targeting Friday's game at San Jose for the forward's return. Parenteau has missed the last 13 games with a knee injury, suffered March 10 versus Winnipeg.
- Cody McLeod is on the road trip and took to the ice briefly before morning skate, but he didn't participate in the team's practice. Roy did not give an update on McLeod's injury status or if he'll be back in the lineup before the playoffs begin. McLeod's missed the last two games with an ankle injury.
- The Avalanche and Oilers are meeting for the third and final time this season. These former division rivals have split the first two matchups, with Edmonton winning 8-2 here at Rexall Place on Dec. 5 and Colorado winning 4-2 at Pepsi Center on Dec. 19.
- Paul Stastny has 298 career assists, two shy of becoming the eighth player in franchise history to reach 300 helpers.