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Wild ready for Parise, Suter debuts

by Deborah Francisco

AVALANCHE (0-0-0) at WILD (0-0-0)


Season series: This is the first of five meetings between the Northwest Division rivals. Last season the Avalanche and Wild split a six-game season series. The two squads concluded their rivalry last season with a home-and-home series which the Avalanche swept with victories on March 4 and March 6.

Big story: This contest will be all about first impressions. Fans in the State of Hockey are eager to see how the summer's two biggest free agents, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, will look in Minnesota jerseys. Meanwhile Colorado's newly named captain, 20-year-old Gabriel Landeskog, will want to lead his squad to victory in his first game with the C.

Team Scope

Avalanche: Colorado finished last season 11th in the Western Conference, missing the postseason by just seven points.

This season, the young squad is more determined to make it to the playoffs, which should be an easier task with the addition of free-agent forward PA Parenteau and with five players returning to the squad with new contracts, including Erik Johnson and Matt Duchene.

The consistency in players returning from last season's team may prove to Colorado's advantage as they approach Saturday's season-opener with less than a week of training camp together.

"I know it is a short camp, but everybody [in the League] is in the same boat," coach Joe Sacco told the team's website. "I think we have done a good job of preparing the players. I think the players seem excited; there is a lot of enthusiasm on the ice right now."

Wild: The State of Hockey is in a state of anticipation for the Wild to succeed on the ice after the team fell flat in the second half of the 2011-12 season, dropping from first place in the standings in December to finish 24th, with the lowest goals-per-game average in the League (2.02).

The front office made big adjustments over the summer, bringing Parise in to help with the offensive production and Suter to shore up the blue line. The return to full health of captain Mikko Koivu also should help the Wild.

"Making sure we're physically ready for Game 1 is going to be first on the list," coach Mike Yeo said. "It's an adjustment for everybody. It's different for every player. We have guys that haven't played a game in probably eight months … as much as we can work it or re-enforce it off the ice than the quicker we can get to the point where we feel really comfortable."

Injury report: Avalanche forward Chuck Kobasew has been out all week with a bad case of the flu, and his status for Saturday is questionable. The Wild activated forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) from injured reserve and re-assigned defenseman Steven Kampfer to the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League on Thursday.

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