SHARKS (0-0-0) at AVALANCHE (0-0-0)
-- It's the season-opener for both teams and the first of four meetings in 2009-10; The Sharks took all four games from the Avs last season, including two shutouts. Colorado managed just four goals against San Jose, while former Shark Milan Michalek scored five times. Evgeni Nabokov was between the pipes for both shutouts.
-- After a tumultuous offseason, All-Star sniper Dany Heatley will make his debut for San Jose following a trade from the Ottawa Senators. Heatley, who asked to be dealt due to philosophical differences with Sens coach Cory Clouston, has averaged 45 goals over the last four seasons and is joining a team that racked up 53 wins and 117 points in 2008-09 to win the Presidents' Trophy. Matt Duchene
, who was taken third in the 2009 Entry Draft, will make his NHL debut for Colorado on the same night that the Avs will raise Joe Sakic's No. 19 to the rafters of the Pepsi Center. Oh, yeah, and Joe Sacco will make his coaching debut.
-- San Jose enters the 2009-10 season without forwards Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek, who went to Ottawa in the deal that brought Heatley to the Bay Area. The Sharks also have a new captain, as Patrick Marleau
has been replaced by veteran defenseman Rob Blake. Nabokov is a workhorse in goal for the Sharks and figures to play at least 65 games.
"It is a tremendous honor," Blake said of being named captain. "It will take the whole group. With the players we have here, the job will be easier."
-- Clearly in a rebuilding stage, Colorado begins a new era without former captain Sakic. Duchene, who won't turn 19 until Jan. 16, is the new kid on the block and will be asked to be the second coming of Sakic, a future Hall of Famer.
"It's a day I've been waiting for a long time," said Duchene, a big Avs fan as a youngster. "I'm just thinking about going out there, doing what I've been doing and helping the team the best I can."
Colorado also has a new No. 1 goalie after signing Craig Anderson as a free agent in July. Anderson, 28, went 15-7-5 with a .924 save percentage for Florida last season.
-- Nabokov enters the regular season practically in midseason form, as he blanked the Phoenix Coyotes in his final warm-up, a 2-0 victory on Sept. 26. The 34-year-old finished second in the NHL last season with 41 wins in 62 appearances.
Colorado received a pair of goals from gritty forward Darcy Tucker in its preseason finale on Sept. 26 in a 5-3 loss to Los Angeles in Las Vegas. Milan Hejduk
averaged a point per game in the exhibition campaign.
-- Avs right wing David Jones
is out indefinitely due to a bruised chest suffered last week against the Kings. Tom Preissing, a defenseman who was acquired from L.A. in the Ryan Smyth trade, is out 4-6 weeks with an undisclosed injury. The Sharks are in good shape as they enter the new season.
Stat Pack -
- The Sharks had five players who scored 20 or more goals in 2008-09, a number that figures to grow with Heatley on board. San Jose also had five players who were plus-10 or higher -- an indication that Todd McLellan's club is also committed to playing in its own end.
was limited to just 45 games for the Avs last season due to a broken right forearm, but still managed to put up 36 points. With Sakic gone, there will be more pressure on a healthy Stastny to provide offense.
-- While the Sharks will likely finish with a better record this season, one has to think the Avalanche will come out with a ton of energy due to the pre-game ceremony for Sakic. The Avs will try to win this one for their former captain.
-- Brian Compton, NHL.com