A season-opening game always brings lots of energy with it. From a revved up crowd, to two teams excited to get back to hockey, there's no shortage of combustible elements.
Add a divisional rivalry into that formula, and the Minnesota Wild's opener Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche has all the ingredients to be an intense game.
"There's always a lot of excitement going into every season, but it's nice to start with a game like that," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "We know what to expect from them. It will be fast, it will be intense, and hopefully we use that to make sure we're at our best."
It's been a rivalry that's heightened over the past few seasons. The Wild eliminated the Avalanche from the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2014 in a decisive Game 7. Nino Niederreiter scored the series-clinching goal in Pepsi Center, making each return to Colorado a bit more distinct.
"It's always a very special building to me because of what happened two years ago, but at the same time, you have to approach it as a new season," Niederreiter said. "It's a home-opener for them, so we have to make sure we're sharp, and focus on us."
One of the keys to playing against the Avalanche will be managing their team speed.
"They have a lot of skill, they come hard; they're well coached with their systems," Ryan Suter said. "They stick to their systems the way that they come at you, the way that they forecheck."
Pace is something that can play into the Wild's favor, with a group of skaters and a system that stresses doing things quickly.
"They're a pretty fast team, so we're going to have to contain that, and definitely jump in the play as defensemen, and get shots on net," Marco Scandella said.
With the Wild having finished its preseason schedule five days ago, players have been chomping at the bit, anxiously awaiting a chance to get back into a game.
"We've been working hard in camp preparing for this moment," Scandella said. "It's the first game of the season, it's really exciting, and it's time to get out there and play."
Here are the lines from morning skate:
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Nino Niederreiter
Zach Parise – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek – Tyler Graovac – Charlie Coyle
Chris Porter – Erik Haula – Ryan Carter
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Marco Scandella – Christian Folin