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Practice Report: Off to Detroit

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The question of who the Colorado Avalanche will face in the second round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs was answered Tuesday night following San Jose’s 5-3 victory over Calgary.

Now comes the playoff matchup Avalanche fans have been waiting for.

Colorado will renew its rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings in a best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinal series beginning Thursday at Joe Louis Arena.

The Red Wings won all four regular-season matchups against the Avs, but the common belief is that this Colorado team is much different than the one which dropped a 4-0 decision to Detroit back on Feb. 18.

That game came approximately one week prior to the NHL’s trade, where the Avalanche made a big splash by first signing Peter Forsberg (one day before the deadline) and trading for defensive reinforcements in Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei.

“It’s been a while, so we’re definitely looking forward to it,” said Avalanche captain Joe Sakic, who missed all four regular season meetings with Detroit due to injury. “They’ve had a great year and have a great hockey club. But we’ve been playing pretty well and we’ve obviously got a different team from the regular season, so we’re excited.”

"You can't really compare; the intensity and emotions aren't the same," said Avs netminder Jose Theodore, regarding comparisons between the regular season and playoffs
Jose Theodore’s mindset goes right along with Sakic’s, as the netminder believes Detroit will see a much different Avalanche squad in the postseason.

“No doubt about it. More experienced, obviously, a lot more experienced. It’s so much different, the hockey in the regular season than the playoffs,” said Theodore. “You can’t really compare; the intensity and emotions aren’t the same. We have a lot of guys that played against these guys before, which is good. I’m sure it’s going to be a really fast-paced and exciting series.”

The two clubs have a storied playoff history after battling in the postseason five times during a seven-year span from 1996-2002. But since their last meeting in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, both teams have undergone numerous roster changes. The Avalanche has four players on its current roster that skated in that series (Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, Milan Hejduk and Joe Sakic), while the Red Wings boast eight (Chris Chelios, Pavel Datsyuk, Kris Draper, Dominik Hasek, Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty).

That begs the question: With a significant amount of roster turnover, will the rivalry have the same intensity and zeal that it did during its heyday?

“I know the guys who were around for that time, we’re definitely excited. We can feel it. You know the buzz around the whole city is there,” said Sakic.

While many players will be getting their first taste of the playoff rivalry between Colorado and Detroit when the puck drops Thursday, Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville believes it won’t take long for them to get acclimated to the intensity of the series.

“It’s great to be a part of it again. I think for the guys who have experienced it, it will be fun to be active in that type of series,” said Quenneville. “The guys that haven’t felt it or seen it, they’ll immediately capture the feeling, the excitement, the meaning of a shift, the building being loud, crazy and exciting. There’s a lot of good things going into it, but whether you’ve been a part of it or not, you’ll be able to feel it quickly.”
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