MONTREAL — It’s not every year that the Colorado Avalanche get to play a preseason game in Montreal, Quebec. It’s even more rare that the club plays a contest in a non-NHL facility—Frozen Fury in Las Vegas notwithstanding. This year, the Avs are doing both.
Games three and four of the preseason will take place in the Canadian province Quebec—one in Montreal and the other in Quebec City—which is a special treat for both players and fans alike.
“I think it’ll be a lot of fun. A few new guys in the lineup. I think it’s their first time playing here. It’s a great building. So it should be a lot of fun,” said gritty forward Cody McLeod from the Bell Centre in Montreal. “We’ve never played here against them in the preseason so it will be a lot of fun.”
The excitement that comes with playing in a loud building that isn’t a regular stop during the year certainly fuels the players. It’s palpable in the room, written on the faces of those excited to get a chance to play in such an incredible hub of hockey.
"Obviously, Patty in Montreal and Joe (Sakic) in Quebec, even Peter (Forsberg) too… They were my heroes growing up. It's always fun coming here,” said center Matt Duchene. “I love coming to the Bell Centre and looking up at the banners and the ring of honor up top. It's pretty cool playing under Maurice Richard's banner. He's the reason I wear No. 9 so (it’s) always cool playing under that banner. ”
The Avalanche coming to Montreal is increasingly special for both local media and hockey fans as well, as it means the return of former Stanley Cup-winning Canadiens goalie—and Avalanche head coach—Patrick Roy. It will be the case again on Friday night as the Avalanche franchise returns to Quebec City for the second time (2002) since relocating to Denver in 1995.
This time, though, the bubbling scrums of excited journalists and rabid hockey fans will be looking for former Quebec Nordiques captain Joe Sakic, Colorado’s executive vice president/general manager.
Before then, the Avs must face the Canadiens after simultaneous—split squad—losses to the Ducks on Monday night.
While speaking to the media on Thursday morning, Roy tipped his hand regarding his lineup for the evening's contest. Center Matt Duchene will be playing between his usual partner Ryan O'Reilly and Avalanche prospect Borna Rendulic. Young Nathan MacKinnon will be centering a line with Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog and newcomer Jesse Winchester.
“Rendulic. Skilled kid,” Duchene said of his 6-foot-2, 200-pound Croatian winger for the evening. “Should be a fun game.”
McLeod will be playing wing alongside Marc-Andre Cliche and Daniel Maggio.
“I played mostly with [Cliche] last year,” McLeod said, talking about the reunion with his linemate. “Hardworking guy. Good penalty killer. We played pretty well together so hopefully it continues tonight.”
Veteran forwards Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay will be healthy scratches for the match, allowing younger, lesser experienced players to get another look from the Avalanche coaching and scouting staff.
Roy said both players would be in the lineup and in their respective pairings on Friday night at the Colisée Pepsi.