The Colorado Avalanche will gather as a team Sunday to watch Super Bowl 50 with plenty of interest, as their neighbors the Denver Broncos are playing the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
"It's going to be exciting to watch it together," said Avalanche forward Matt Duchene, who predicted a 27-24 Broncos win.
The Avalanche are pulling for the 12-4 Broncos to defeat the 15-1 Panthers, especially because they believe this will be Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's last chance to get his hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy. It's expected that Manning, 39, will retire regardless of the outcome.
Duchene said he believes Manning wants to make up for the Broncos' 43-8 Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks two years ago.
"He's a gamer," Duchene said. "I imagine he's pretty hungry to put the last one in the past. I'm sure it's haunted him a little bit so I imagine he's ready to rock."
Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, who predicted a 27-24 Broncos win, said he thinks the motivation to go out on top fuels Manning.
"This is probably his last year and I'm sure he's going to do everything he can to make sure his body is feeling good and to go out a champion," Johnson said.
The Broncos have the No. 1 defense in the NFL, and Duchene is hopeful it will be able to contain the Panthers' top-rated offense, led by dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton.
"They're a very good team and Newton's a total specimen," Duchene said. "Denver's [defense] has got to be great and Peyton's got to do his thing. With how good Carolina's been, Denver's the underdog this time. But sometimes that's a good thing. I think Carolina's [defense] is underrated; I think they're very strong. Obviously Denver's [defense] is one of the most dominant in the league and Carolina's offense is so strong. I think it's going to be a tough game for both teams. Two good teams going against each other."
Johnson said he thinks the Broncos defense will be too much for Newton and the Panthers, just as it was against quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the Broncos' first two playoff games.
"Brady couldn't run and Roethlisberger was hurt and couldn't really run, so the factor of Newton being able to scramble, he may be able to pick apart the defense on the ground and be a little more of a challenge," he said. "But I still like the Broncos.
"[The Panthers] haven't been there in a while and this is Newton's first Super Bowl so maybe the nerves will be there. It should be a good game regardless. But you win championships with defense and the Broncos' is the best."
There was little trash talk coming from the Carolina Hurricanes, who are preparing for their game Friday at the Winnipeg Jets.
"They're both, obviously, good teams," Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said. "They've made it that far. Living in Raleigh [N.C.] now I'm for the Panthers. But I've always been a fan of Peyton as well. It will be a good match. I'm excited to watch it."
Said Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, Jordan's older brother: "I don't have a prediction. I like Carolina's chances. They've been great all season and really, really tough. Their defense is good and their offense is one of the best as well. But Denver is pretty solid too. So it should be an interesting Super Bowl. It's always a different animal.
"Hopefully it's a close game and entertaining because it will be more fun to watch."
In addition to the Avalanche and Hurricanes, a host of NHL players weighed in with their thoughts and predictions for the big game:
Paul Stastny, St. Louis Blues: "With my heart I want the Broncos to win. Living in Denver, Peyton Manning has been through so much, especially after neck surgeries. This was his worst year and he still found ways to win. I think that would be a good story for him. … If I was a betting man, which I'm not, I probably would take Carolina just because they're so loose. I think they're so loose that they're almost too young to realize what they're doing right now. I think it'll be Carolina, 24-17."
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: "You look at the season Cam Newton is having and I think he's going to go all the way. He's so confident and determined so I think he's going to go all the way. Carolina 32, Denver 24."
John Carlson, Washington Capitals: "It's hard to see anyone but Carolina winning. But Denver's got a good [defense], a good team. If they can move the ball they'll have a chance. But I just don't think anyone can stop [Carolina's] offense right now. [Newton] is unbelievable."
Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators: "I took Denver in the pool so I'm going to stick with them. My hope is they slow play and kind of slow down [Newton] and the offense. I would like to see Peyton go out on top."
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins: "I didn't really follow football all that much except the Patriots. But I guess I'll go with Denver; Peyton can go out in style. And they beat the Patriots so I guess it'll be nice getting beaten by the champs."
Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo Sabres: "Broncos. [Having played] in Denver I still have an attachment to them and the [Buffalo] Bills aren't there. … I want the Broncos to win. I think their defense has been phenomenal. I think they're the squad."
Craig Smith, Nashville Predators: "I guess maybe Peyton. I think it would be cool if he goes out on top in his last game. He's a class act. It's good for the game."
Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets: "I guess if I had to pick I'd go with Denver because of Peyton being at the end of his career. And he seems like a guy that has been a great pro and is easy to like. He's got good commercials too."