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Duchene eager for Stanley Cup debut

by Brian Compton
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Matt Duchene only found out 10 months ago which NHL team he would be playing for in 2009-10.

Now, the 19-year-old will appear in his first Stanley Cup Playoff game Wednesday night as his Colorado Avalanche face the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of a Western Conference quarterfinal at HP Pavilion (10:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC).

Duchene was the third player selected at the 2009 Entry Draft in Montreal and topped all rookies with 24 goals and 55 points. His play certainly benefited the Avs, who were picked by many prior to the season to finish near the bottom of the League standings.

"Coming into the season, you don't even know if you're going to make the team," Duchene said Wednesday morning. "At the beginning of the year, we were doing well and you're thinking about playoffs, but you have 70 games left. Now that I'm here and getting the chance, it's pretty cool to skate on that ice and see the 'Stanley Cup Playoffs' painted on it. I grew up watching it every year. This is the best part of the year. It's going to be very cool to be a part of it."

That being said, the Avalanche don't have any plans of being ousted in the opening round. They understand the magnitude of the task that lies ahead as they face a San Jose team that won 51 games during the regular season and poses one of the highest-scoring trios in the sport in Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. The Sharks lost only six times in regulation all season on home ice.

"Obviously, they're a talented team … they're good all the way around," Duchene said of the Sharks. "They finished first for a reason. We're just going to try to play loose. We did well against them in the regular season, so hopefully that follows suit in the playoffs here.

"We're happy to be here, but we're not just happy to be here," he added. "We want to have a good showing. If we do that, we know we'll be successful. We've got to stick to our game plan and not shy away from it."

There was some question as to whether Duchene would be healthy enough to play Wednesday night, as he was forced to sit out Sunday's regular-season finale with a torso injury. But No. 9 looked just fine Wednesday morning and will skate on a line with Brandon Yip and Milan Hejduk.

Colorado already is missing Peter Mueller, who suffered a concussion after being hit by Sharks defenseman Rob Blake back on April 4. Mueller did not skate on Wednesday and has been ruled out for Game 1. Colorado coach Joe Sacco said there still is no timetable for Mueller's return.

Luckily for the Avs, though, Duchene is ready.

"I feel good," Duchene said. "I feel better than I thought I was going to feel. It's going to be fun."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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