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Game 1 Preview: Avalanche at Wild

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Warm up the lights. It's hockey time baby.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It's been months since the lights went out.

The darkness, though comfortable for a while, goes on far too long. We grow bored, and then restless. We gnash our teeth. We starve for the light. We act out with each other. We pick fights with Malachi. Until finally, the sixth month of August fails, and the glimmer of hope rises.

But it's a pale, empty, and false light that glows from training camp, from preseason games, one that spotlights minor talent that can quickly fade when surrounded by the sun's normal glare. (cough, Lindstrom.) Some news is illuminated; still more gets excreted: back surgeries, pulled from thin air.

But when we woke today we woke to the call we haven't heard since this past spring. And we woke to that familiar PACHONK of arena lights--they need warmed up, after all.

Let the past early exits, naysayers & regression be damned. Today, a new slate with new hope rises. Bask in the light.

Because today, Avalanche hockey is back.

John Mitchell and Jesse Winchester are both out with injury, but Avalanche hockey is back.

And sure, it's against the heartless mercenary bastards of Minneapolis, but Avalanche.hockey.is.back.

The Good Guys

Gabe Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Nathan MacKinnon
Alex Tanguay - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla
Jamie McGinn - Max Talbot - Daniel Briere
Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Dennis Everberg

Brad Stuart -Erik Johnson
Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie
Jan Hejda - Nate Guenin

Semyon Varlamov
Reto Berra

Ryan Wilson || Zach Redmond

How to watch it

With a beverage and some rally strudels.

No, the TV info, you boob.

NBC Sports. 9:00 Eastern. 7:00 Mountain. 02:00 GMT.

I want to see the opposition's coverage and I swear I will be nice.

Enjoy Hockey Wilderness. You can also give beat writer Mike Russo a look on Twitter here or on his Star-Tribune blog, Russo's Rants. His coverage is great (but you might avoid his Twitter during the game).

In the meantime, here's your three questions of the game with Hockey Wilderness.

1. What's the Wild's biggest strength coming into this season?

Definitely their forward depth. The Wild have the most Top-6 options in franchise history, and that’s not including Matt Cooke, who will (for… reasons?) be skating with Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek. Erik Haula, Charlie Coyle, and Nino Niederreiter will be playing on the Wild’s third line, and the Wild’s third-line from last year will likely be their fourth-line. It might be pure homerism, but I feel that depth up front can match anyone in the Division.

2. How concerned are you about goaltending?

Meh. The Wild’s goaltending situation throughout the summer was unusual, so it got a lot of run in the media, but unless everyone gets hurt, they’ll be fine. Kuemper is largely untested, but he flashed a lot of ability last season and is a decent bet to be a fine (or better) starting goalie. If healthy, Backstrom is a decent back-up at this point in his career. If those two options fail, Bryzgalov is taking selfies in an “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass” station in Chuck Fletcher’s office. So, am I concerned? A little bit- there is potential for things to go wrong. But am I more concerned about the Wild’s goaltending than I would be about the Stars, Blues, Ducks, or Sharks? Not appreciably.

3. How much do you buy into the league's narrative that the Avs and Wild are now a full-blown rivalry?

That’s probably a question that Avs fans are more suited to answering. It’s very debatable whether Minnesota has ever had a “true” rivalry, with both teams mutually showing a significant amount of contempt for each other. My guess is the Avs don’t hate the Wild on a level near how they hate Detroit. But in a scientific, peer-reviewed study I concluded that, at least currently, Wild fans have more hatred for the Avalanche than any other team.

Would I say it's full-blownsies? No, there just haven’t been a lot of the heated moments you need to forge a good rivalry. But last year’s Wild-Avs series certainly sowed the seeds for one- a contested 7-gamer with chippy play. If those two teams can keep that up in the regular season, and maybe meet up in the playoffs again, then we can declare this rivalry legit.

Pregame viewing

AVS HOCKEY!