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O'Reilly, Duchene Realize a Dream

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche returned to Denver Saturday night following the club’s final preseason game in Las Vegas and hit the ice for practice Sunday morning at South Suburban Family Sports Center.

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As was announced earlier today, the Avalanche reduced its preseason roster to 24 players by reassigning forward Chris Durno, defenseman Derek Peltier and goaltender Tyler Weiman to the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League.

Defenseman Tom Preissing is out 4-6 weeks due to a knee injury and is expected to start the season on injured reserve, meaning the Avalanche’s active roster would be down to 23 players.

That being said, the Avalanche will have a pair of 18-year-old forwards on its opening night roster. Matt Duchene (the 3rd overall pick in the 2009 Entry Draft) and Ryan O’Reilly (33rd overall in 2009) are among the 14 forwards remaining in Colorado.

Prior to the start of camp, many outsiders believed Duchene had a good chance of cracking Colorado’s opening night roster. Not quite as many eyes were on O’Reilly, the first of the Avalanche’s two second-round picks this past June.

Bringing a strong work ethic and maturity beyond his years, both on and off the ice, O’Reilly always believed there was a chance he would be in Denver on October 1.

“I thought there was a small chance,” said O’Reilly. “I knew I would have to do a lot to impress them. To make this dream a reality is a great feeling. It’s a big relief. Hopefully I can stick around a little longer.”

What impressed Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco most about O’Reilly were his defensive instincts. Although O’Reilly didn’t record any points in five preseason outings, Sacco noted that he was solid on faceoffs and played responsible hockey in his own end.

“Right now, I see Ryan as a good penalty killer,” said Sacco. “Throughout the preseason he’s been one of our top penalty-killing forwards, which is pretty impressive for an 18-year old. He has good instincts.”

As for Duchene, he can now check another of his major career goals off the list. The center, who had four points (1g/3a) in six preseason contests, has had his eyes set on a roster spot since rookie camp began.

“Starting the season here was the goal coming in,” said Duchene. “Now I have a big-time tryout, and hopefully I can stick out in a short amount of time.”

The fact that he’ll be playing his first NHL contest on the same night the Avalanche raises Joe Sakic’s jersey to the rafters is not lost on the Haliburton, Ontario native. For a player who grew up idolizing the former Avalanche captain, the festivities will only add to the excitement of the evening.

“He was definitely my favorite player growing up, so getting to see that will be a dream come true,” said Duchene. “To be able to put on that jersey for a real regular season game is going to be unbelievable.”

Hendricks Back at Practice
After being bloodied during Saturday night’s game against the Los Angeles Kings, forward Matt Hendricks took part in Colorado’s practice on Sunday.

Hendricks was injured during a fight with Los Angeles’ Wayne Simmonds during the second period on Saturday, but was well enough to practice today while sporting 10 stitches and a new black eye. The gritty forward led the Avalanche with 22 penalty minutes during the preseason.

Final Preseason Stats
The Avalanche finished the preseason with a 3-3-0 record, winning all three of its home contests and dropping each of its three road games.

Following is a list of Colorado’s top preseason performers.

Player                   GP    G     A    PTS   +/-    PIM
Milan Hejduk        4      2      2      4       2       4
Marek Svatos       5      2      2      4       0       2
Matt Duchene      6      1      3      4       -1      2
Darcy Tucker       4      2      1      3        3       6
Wojtek Wolski     5      2      1      3       -2       2
Paul Stastny        4      1      2      3        3       6
Kyle Quincey       4      0      3      3        1       4

Goaltender           GP    MINS     AVG    W    L  OTL  GA    Svs    Sv%
Peter Budaj            2      119       2.02     1    1    0      4       41     .902
Craig Anderson    3      179        2.35     2    1    0      7      83     .916
Tyler Weiman        1        60        6.00     0    1    0      6      36     .833
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