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30 in 15: O'Reilly in new role at Avalanche camp

by Brian Hunter continues its preview of the 2013-14 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

Training camp opened last week for the Colorado Avalanche, with the annual Burgundy/White Game played Sunday in Colorado Springs and the preseason schedule set to get underway at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

It's difficult to imagine a franchise whose fans are more eager to see hockey back on the ice, with the offseason changes made to the coaching staff and front office, the drafting of center Nathan MacKinnon with the No. 1 pick at the 2013 NHL Draft, and the desire to get last season's bad taste out of their mouths.

As the next several weeks leading up to the Oct. 2 regular-season opener (also against the Ducks) play out, here are three things to look for at Avalanche training camp:

Ryan O'Reilly
Ryan O'Reilly
Center - COL
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 20
SOG: 66 | +/-: -3
1. Ryan O'Reilly's acclimation to left wing -- The addition of MacKinnon gives Colorado a glut of talented centers, with Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and O'Reilly.

First-year coach Patrick Roy has the option of letting 18-year-old MacKinnon get a feel for the League at a less demanding position on the wing, but instead he plans on shifting O'Reilly, 22, onto a potentially dynamite first line with Duchene and PA Parenteau.

O'Reilly missed the first six weeks last season as a restricted free agent without a contract before returning to score 20 points in 29 games after the Avalanche matched an offer sheet he signed with the Calgary Flames. This is an important season in his development, and he'll be adjusting to a new position and the accompanying responsibilities.

"I'm excited about it. I'm looking at it as a good new challenge for me," O'Reilly told The Denver Post. "I mean, I'll be playing with two great players. I've played on the wing before, with Canada in the World Championships, so I'm not totally unfamiliar with it."

2. Adam Foote's influence on the defense -- The main question on everyone's mind surrounds Roy and whether the Hall of Fame goaltender will be even half as good an NHL coach, but the answer depends a lot on how much Colorado improves on the back end.

Enter Foote, who played parts of 17 seasons with the Avalanche and Quebec Nordiques and will have his No. 52 retired by the franchise prior to the Nov. 2 game against the Montreal Canadiens. He'll be working with a group that has plenty of young talent -- Erik Johnson, Ryan Wilson, Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott -- but the Avalanche ranked in the bottom five in goals allowed last season.

"I just think that, out of the gate, these guys need a good support cast. Someone, not just myself, but the whole coaching staff that Roy brought in will support them, give them confidence, study the game together," Foote told Mile High Sports.

"We'll make it fun and easy for them. It doesn't have to be strenuous, but it should be a good challenge for myself and the rest of the coaching staff. I'm looking forward to it."

3. Francois Allaire's influence on the goaltenders -- The other key addition to Roy's staff has already had a major impact on the career of veteran backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Now he'll attempt to help starter Semyon Varlamov rebound from a down year and turn Colorado's last line of defense back into a strength.

"I want him to be comfortable. That's the main thing," Allaire told The Denver Post over the summer. "After that, I want him to understand I'm not coming from a different planet. It's the same stuff. We don't want him to change everything. I've met with him a few times already. One of my trademarks is I try to make sure guys are feeling good and keep it simple, create good routine, make sure the guy is happy coming to the rink. Then after that, look at the tape and then find their best strength and build around it. I'm not there yet with [Semyon], but I expect that to come."

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