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Rookies To Get Taste Of NHL In Avs Preseason Opener

Colorado will ice a team against Vegas full of youth and experience

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Several Colorado Avalanche rookies and prospects will get to see what NHL action is all about tonight as the team opens the preseason at home against the Vegas Golden Knights.

It will be the first-ever NHL preseason contest for five players, including forward Alexander Kerfoot, who signed with Colorado as a college free agent out of Harvard University on Aug. 24.

Kerfoot is part of the newcomer group this evening that also comprises Travis Barron, Ty Lewis, Dominic Toninato and 2017 Avs draftee Conor Timmins.

"It's going to be an exciting opportunity to play in the Pepsi Center for my first preseason game," said Kerfoot after the Avs' morning skate on Tuesday. "I'm really excited and looking forward to it, but I'm sure when I step on the ice there are going to be some nerves."

Kerfoot was part of the Avalanche squad that took part in the San Jose Sharks Prospect Showcase from Sept. 9-12 and ended up having a strong showing. He finished the rookie tournament as the team co-leader in points after registering four assists in three games.

"I got more comfortable as the weekend went along," Kerfoot said. "I think the first game I was a little nervous, but I started to feel more comfortable. I played with the same linemates for all three games, so that helped. I was happy with how it went."

Video: Alexander Kerfoot on his first NHL preseason game

While the Avalanche's roster versus the Golden Knights will feature several fresh faces, it will still have its fair share of players that have NHL experience. Colorado's lineup this evening includes 11 players that have played at least one regular-season game in the league

The Avs will dress five skaters that saw significant time with the club last year: defenseman Erik Johnson and forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Nieto, Mikko Rantanen and Carl Soderberg. Tonight is an opportunity for the veterans to get adjusted to playing with their new teammates.

"I'm looking forward to creating chemistry with the new players," MacKinnon said. "Half our team is different this season, and we signed some young guys and good free agents and drafted well. All those guys are coming up now, and we're kind of starting fresh. Tonight is the first game of that and we're excited for it."

Video: Nathan MacKinnon on the preseason

Defenseman Mason Geertsen has played 117 professional games in the Avalanche's minor-league system and helped the Colorado Eagles to a ECHL Kelly Cup championship last year, but this evening will mark only his second NHL preseason outing. His last exhibition with Colorado was nearly four years ago to the day, Sept. 18, 2013, against the Anaheim Ducks.

Geertsen said he's looking forward to playing in front of the Avs fans again and against players that don't share the same logo on their jerseys.

"You can kind of play your game a little more because you don't want to be too mean to guys or be too hard on guys in practice or even the Burgundy/White Game," Geertsen said. "It's going to be fun."

Video: Mason Geertsen before preseason game 1

Spencer Martin, who played three games with the Avs last season, will get the start in goal. Joe Cannata is slated to be the backup netminder.

Altitude will televise the preseason game live with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. MT, while NHL Network will carry the contest out of market. The radio broadcast can be heard on Altitude Sports Radio AM 950 or at ColoradoAvalanche.com.

Below are the line combinations that the Avalanche used during 5-on-5 drills at morning skate.

PROJECTED LINE COMBINATIONS

Alexander Kerfoot - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Andrew Agozzino - J.C. Beaudin - Rocco Grimaldi
Travis Barron - Carl Soderberg - Matt Nieto
Ty Lewis - Dominic Toninato - Gabriel Bourque

Duncan Siemens - Erik Johnson
Mason Geertsen - Conor Timmins
Jared Cowen - Nicolas Meloche

Spencer Martin
Joe Cannata

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