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GAME DAY: at Colorado

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets





Much is expected of the young, talented Colorado Avalanche, and many people think this could be a special season in Denver.

There’s a lot to like about this club; the Avalanche boasts one of the league’s most skilled collections of forwards and there are top prospects on the blue line ready to step into prime roles in the NHL. They have a young goaltender in Semyon Varlamov who has proven he can win in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and now, he’s charged with helping Colorado get back into the dance.

Another young man tasked with revitalizing the Avalanche is 19-year-old captain Gabriel Landeskog, the former second overall pick of Colorado who became the youngest captain in NHL history when he accepted the “C” this past offseason. Landeskog was a standout power forward with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, and in his rookie NHL season, quickly developed into a sturdy two-way hockey player that head coach Joe Sacco could trust in any game situation.

Colorado was dealt some bad news on the injury front on Wednesday, learning that rugged forward Steve Downie would need season-ending surgery for a serious knee injury believed to be a torn ACL. He’s been a fixture in the Avalanche top nine forward group since being acquired from Tampa Bay last season, and his loss means opportunity for another young prospect in their system.

Avalanche GM Greg Sherman further fortified the offense in free agency, signing coveted playmaker PA Parenteau to a four-year deal and adding one of the NHL’s leading assist-getters in 2011-12. Another recent acquisition, Jamie McGinn, came over via trade from the San Jose Sharks and exceeded expectations right off the bat. Thought to be a grinder-type, McGinn showed some offensive flair upon joining the Avalanche and he could see time with point-producing mainstays like Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, David Jones and Milan Hejduk.

The key to success for Colorado lies with its defense and goaltending – can Varlamov establish consistency and will the Avalanche defense be able to tighten up in front of him? It’s a young group on the blueline, with only Jan Hejda (34) and Greg Zanon (32) not in their 20s.

-- The Blue Jackets are expected to start Sergei Bobrovsky in goal tonight. Steve Mason suffered the loss last night against Phoenix in his season debut between the pipes.

-- Colorado struggled in its opener against Minnesota, but came back with a strong effort Tuesday night vs. the defending champion Los Angeles Kings.

--Semyon Varlamov is expected to start in goal for the Avalanche.

Gabriel Landeskog


2011-12 STATS: 22-30-52, 82 GP

A strong case could have been made for Landeskog to win last year’s Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. He played all 82 games for Colorado and steadily got better as the season progressed, and became part of the club’s penalty kill along the way. The future is exceedingly bright for the young Swede, and though only 19 years old, he seems to be the perfect fit to lead this Avalanche squad.


COLORADO: Steve Downie (knee)

READ: Post Game: Phoenix
READ: Three Keys: Phoenix
READ: Game Blog: Blue Jackets at Coyotes

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