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Duchene says he'll play vs. Sharks in Game 1

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com
CENTENNIAL, Colo. –- Matt Duchene may not be 100 percent healthy, but he pronounced himself fit to play when the Colorado Avalanche opens first-round playoff action Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks.

The 19-year-old rookie center took part in the Avalanche's full practice Tuesday after missing Sunday's regular-season finale to nurse an upper torso injury.

Duchene suffered the injury in an April 7 game against Edmonton and played a little more than five minutes in the first period in last Friday's game against Chicago before calling it a night.

"I felt better than I thought I would," said Duchene, who scored 24 goals and led all NHL rookies with 55 points. "I'm looking forward to (Wednesday) for sure. I'm excited to get going."

Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said he was encouraged by Duchene's play in practice.

"I thought he got through the practice fine," he said. "He says he feels OK, so we'll see how he presents (Wednesday) morning. If everything is as we expect, he'll be ready to go."

Duchene will need to play with some pain while anchoring a line with rookie left wing Brandon Yip and right wing Milan Hejduk. Yip replaces Peter Mueller, who missed the final four regular-season games with a concussion and didn't accompany the team to San Jose for the first two games.

"I'm obviously pretty sore, but I'm going to do what I have to do," Duchene said. "There's different ways to handle the pain. I'll be fine. I felt pretty good today at practice. We'll see how it goes, but I'll deal with it and fight through it and keep going.

"It's not going to limit me that much. There's a couple things that are a little tougher, but it's just going to be (a matter of) taking care of it on days off and getting rest and playing smart."

Duchene stayed overnight in a Denver hospital Friday to undergo a battery of tests and was released Saturday.

"I grew up watching this team, especially in the playoffs. It's going to be a lot of fun putting the jersey on and doing something that my heroes did in the past. We already proved that we're a team to be reckoned with. If we play our game, hopefully we can do some damage in the playoffs."
-- Matt Duchene

"We thought it was pretty serious, so I was pretty freaked out," he said. "I was pretty fortunate when the results came back negative. I feel great to be able to start the playoffs with the team. Playoffs are always my favorite time of year and to get a taste of it in my first season ... there are a lot of great players in the league who haven't gotten a taste of it very much.

"I grew up watching this team, especially in the playoffs. It's going to be a lot of fun putting the jersey on and doing something that my heroes did in the past. We already proved that we're a team to be reckoned with. If we play our game, hopefully we can do some damage in the playoffs."

Hejduk said Duchene "looked fine" and showed little evidence of the injury.

"He's a big part of this team and we definitely need him," he said. "We have to do it without (Mueller) for a while, but we'll try and play our best hockey. It's nice to have Duchie back because he's a really important player for us."
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