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Makar 'all good to go' for Avalanche opener against Flames

Defenseman will play first NHL regular-season game after returning to practice

by Rick Sadowski / Independent Correspondent

DENVER -- Cale Makar said he will play for the Colorado Avalanche in their season opener against the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; ALT, SNW, NHL.TV).

"All good to go," said Makar, who practiced Wednesday after taking a maintenance day Tuesday. The 20-year-old defenseman will play his first regular-season game in the NHL after he had six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 games of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Chosen by Colorado with the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Makar will skate on the top pair with Samuel Girard and play the point on the power play. Their presence, along with high-scoring forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, give the Avalanche hope they can compete for the Stanley Cup.

"I'm excited, and we've got a great group of guys that can make a run at it this year," Makar said.


[RELATED: Makar enters season with Avalanche as student of game]

Makar debuted in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round against the Flames. He scored on his first shot in a 6-2 victory and helped the Avalanche win the best-of-7 series in five games.

"I mean, it's nice to have played in this rink before and kind of know what to expect with the atmosphere," he said. "It's going to be a fun one."

Video: Cale Makar checks in at No. 3 on the list

General manager Joe Sakic said he thinks the Avalanche are capable of a Cup run after reaching the playoffs as the second wild card from the West the past two seasons. Colorado lost the second round in seven games to the San Jose Sharks last season.

"We expect to make the playoffs and make a run and try and win the Stanley Cup," Sakic said. "That's pretty much what every GM at the start of the year is going to say. That's our expectation, to have a really good year, have a good start, play consistent.

"We like our group internally, we want win. We have a long way to go, but I believe in this group, I believe that we have a chance. It's not going to be easy, it never is, but we're confident in this group."

Sakic said he's more concerned about the game against the Flames.

"We like the team we have," Sakic sasid. "We're as deep as we have been in a number of years. I know the players are excited, but there are a lot of teams in our conference, our division -- real tough division, real tough conference -- so there are a lot of great teams. For us, it's not to focus on the end game. We're excited about the group we have, but we know we have a lot of work to do, and that starts tomorrow.

"[The Stanley Cup] is our goal, but first things first. Get off to a good start, make the playoffs and try to get the highest seed you possibly can. It's not going to be easy. We have to play well and win a lot of hockey games. The most important thing is to try and get to the playoffs, but that's down the line. We just have to worry about tomorrow and try and get better as a team every day. On paper we feel we're better, but we've got to get on the ice and show it."

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