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The most wonderful time of the year

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It's Hump Day in cubicle land. I'm in New Hampshire - Red Sox Nation - and everyone in the office is decked out in their favorite Sox gear and thinking about today's playoff game. But not me. I'm wearing my favorite Avalanche jersey (the old Center Ice-style black practice jersey), and I'm focused on the important stuff - opening night for my favorite hockey team.

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The NHL offseason is comparatively short, but it feels like it's been forever since the team finished playing in early April. While the Avs did make a big splash in free agency, their two big signings happened just hours apart. Other than that, it's been mostly been a bunch of speculation, filler, training camp news, filler and filler. The new season is finally here and there should be no shortage of topics to cover over the next seven months or so. I'll be able to get back to doing what I enjoy most - game recaps.

The Avalanche play the Dallas Stars tonight. Like most people, I'm anxious to see how well Ryan Smyth fits in with his new team. Tonight will also be my first look at Jaroslav Hlinka. Not many people (myself included) thought much of the Hlinka signing when it happened, but he's made the team and is expected to play on the 2nd line with Stastny tonight (although I have a sneaking feeling it'll be Wolski there). I'm also interested to see what Wyatt Smith is like on the ice, and whether Scott Parker will pick up some of the fighting load from Ian Laperriere.

Just about everyone on defense has some intriguing storylines to follow. But, the guy I'm most curious about back there is Karlis Skrastins. Skrastins was terrific two years ago, and awful last year. This season, he no longer has a longevity record forcing him into the lineup. And now that the team actually has some depth at the position, he wont be handed his ice time on a platter. If he gets his head back in the game and turn things around, this could be a solid defensive team.

The 2007 Stars look a lot like the 2006 Stars. Todd Fedoruk is the notable free agent aquisition (notable is probably way too strong of a word here), although there are a few youngsters on the roster as well. These teams played twice in the preseason. Both games were a bit rough, with a total of 12 major penalties and 2 misconducts in the two tilts. Might that spill over into tonight's game?

According to the Rocky Mountain News (seriously, guys, it's 2007 - is it too much to ask to get an rss feed?), the lines tonight are the same lines used in the last preseason games. That means Hejduk on the first line, Wolski on the 3rd line, and Svatos on the 4th. If correct, Wyatt Smith plays ahead of Ben Guite; I'm disappointed to see Guite scratched. I'm not fond of the defensive pairings at all, but will have an open mind when I watch tonight.

I'm glad to finally be able to say "Game on."

Go Avs.