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Tucker helping young Avs learn the ropes

by Brian Compton
SAN JOSE -- It's no coincidence that Matt Duchene sits next to Darcy Tucker in the Colorado Avalanche's dressing room.

With a team loaded with inexperience, coach Joe Sacco was hoping Duchene, the third pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, could learn a thing or two from Tucker, who was closing in on his 16th birthday when Duchene entered this world.

Now they're teammates who are hoping to take a 2-0 series lead on the San Jose Sharks when the teams collide for Game 2 of this Western Conference quarterfinal at HP Pavilion Friday (10:30 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS).

"It's good to have leadership, especially internal leadership ... not only Darcy, but our other veteran guys," Sacco said after his team skated Friday morning. "It's a big part of the locker room, that internal leadership. It's been good all season long. Sometimes, players have to understand their roles and make sure that they accept their roles. We've had guys who have been able to do that."

Tucker fits into that category. The 35-year-old winger received only 8:25 of ice time in Wednesday's 2-1 victory, but the experience he brought to a team that had 14 players make their postseason debuts was invaluable.

"I think I know my role here," Tucker told "I think I've added some veteran leadership. When I'm on the ice I play my game and help this team in any way I can."

Duchene certainly is appreciative.

"He's been huge," Duchene said. "He's given a lot of great advice and we've had a lot of good talks. I think we've helped each other in ways. He's been a huge part of this team and a guy that says the right thing at the right time."

Duchene grew up an Avalanche fan in Haliburton, Ontario, but loved watching the Toronto Maple Leafs-Ottawa Senators rivalry growing up. Tucker was a part of so many of those battles, as he played for the Leafs from 2000-08.

"Being from Ontario, there's a lot of Leaf fans and there was big Leafs-Sens battle for a long amount of years," Duchene said. "Every year, it was an exciting series to watch. We talked about that quite a bit. It's pretty cool to be able to hear about that."

Now, they're teammates who are trying to win a Stanley Cup together. While they're certainly at different stages in their careers -- Duchene led all NHL rookies in goals (24) and points (55) this season -- the age factor gets thrown out the window once the puck drops for the common goal.

"It's pretty funny, the age difference between us," Duchene, 19, said. "But once you get in the dressing room here, it kind of feels like you're all the same age. You're in the same position and you're on the same team. But at the same time, you learn a lot from a guy like that."

Surely, the lessons Duchene learned back in training camp and during the regular season will go a long way. But having gone through so many playoff battles, it's the things Tucker -- who has 21 points in 63 career postseason games -- can teach in April that Duchene and so many others in the Avs' dressing room can take with them forever.

"It's good to have experience -- especially at this time of year," Sacco said. "We have so many guys playing for the first time in the playoffs." 

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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