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Stadium Series

Duchene checks out 'cool atmosphere' at Coors Field

Visits rink where Avalanche will play Red Wings in Stadium Series

by Bill Price @BillPriceNHL / Editor in Chief

DENVER -- Being aware that there is a hockey rink in the middle of Coors Field and actually seeing it in person are two totally different experiences. Just ask Matt Duchene.

The Colorado Avalanche forward Tuesday toured for the first time the site of the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the Detroit Red Wings to played Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2) and was equally impressed and excited.

"It's a pretty big wow factor," said Duchene, who checked out the rink with teammate John Mitchell. "I haven't really been thinking about it that much until probably right now. But you kind of feel it being here and feel what the energy is going to be like being here."

Duchene and Mitchell also toured the Colorado Rockies clubhouse they will use during the weekend and entered the baseball field through the home dugout, like they will do Saturday.

"Just seeing the locker room and where we're going to walk out, it's going to be pretty neat and a really cool atmosphere," Duchene said. "I think we're all going to be fired up."

Mitchell said, "I've come here to watch a few (baseball) games. But to come here and see a hockey rink in the middle of the field with the sun … it's pretty special. It's kind of surreal." 

Saturday will be Duchene's first time playing an NHL game outdoors, so he did a little homework Sunday, skipping his nap to watch the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks play their Stadium Series game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

"I ended up watching a lot of the game," said Duchene, who has 26 goals and 22 assists in his seventh season with Colorado. "But I feel like it's going to be different. … We're going to get used to it quick."

Mitchell does have outdoor experience, playing in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic for the New York Rangers, but he said he thinks he will need to get used to the scene Saturday.

"There will be a lot more fans, so it can get a lot noisier," said Mitchell, who has nine goals and seven assists in his fourth season with the Avalanche. "Sometimes the wind was the biggest factor. In the game I played in (at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia) was a little windy and brisk. I think you are going to have to be prepared for it."

Duchene and Mitchell also said they are excited for the 2016 Stadium Series Alumni Game on Friday, which could feature a combination of 11 Hall of Fame members, including their coach Patrick Roy, who has prepared by playing goalie during Avalanche practices. 

"It's going to be cool to watch them, obviously been shooting on Patty the last few weeks," said Duchene, who was an Avalanche fan growing up in Ontario. "I think for all of us that never got to play against him, it will be cool."

Duchene and Mitchell each said their focus right now is on their game against the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). With 20 games remaining, the Avalanche held a two-point lead over the Wild for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference entering Tuesday. 

"Every game we are playing for our playoff lives," Duchene said. "You almost feel a sense of security being in a playoff spot for as many weeks as we have been, and a big reason we do is we have more games played. If those teams can win their games in hand, we can find ourselves out if we don't keep winning. 

"We'll see at the end of the week where we stand, and it would be great for the boys to win against San Jose and would be great to win here, and amazing obviously. It would mean a lot and obviously springboard us in the final stretch run of the last 18 (games)."

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