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Colorado Avalanche set to welcome back Matt Duchene

Matt Duchene returns to Denver for the first time since he was traded to the Ottawa Senators last November

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night, the Colorado Avalanche will host the Ottawa Senators for the first time in two years. This is thanks to last year’s home and home series being played at the Globen Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.

The game will mark the first time Matt Duchene will be back in the arena that he called home for the first nine seasons of his career.

Thanks to a trade that re-shaped the future of the Avalanche, Duchene is going to find himself sitting on the visitors bench at the Pepsi Center for the first time after 662 NHL games.

This time last year, Matt Duchene was still a member of the Avalanche after a summer that he expected to move on. Everyone knew the trade was coming, but took a lot longer than expected.

Then, on November 5th of last year, the Colorado Avalanche finally pulled the trigger on the now infamous Matt Duchene trade.

Joe Sakic traded the former third overall pick to the Ottawa Senators in a deal that fleeced not one, but two other teams. The trade not only set the Senator’s re-build back a few years, but it completely re-shaped the way many look at the future in Colorado.

Depending on where Ottawa’s 2019 first round pick falls, it has the potential to be one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history.

After some rough time for both the team and the player, everyone knew it was time to move on. In fact, Duchene had spoken to the organization about a trade 11 months before it happened.

That doesn’t make Friday night any less significant.

Think what you want about the way things ended for Matt Duchene in Denver, but the fact of the matter is he’s had as big an impact on the Avalanche organization as just about any player has over his decade in burgundy and blue.

Some people felt he quit on the team. Others don’t like the fact that he asked to be moved. Those are all valid feelings, but it doesn’t take away from the reality that Duchene also contributed significantly to a lot of great hockey for the Avalanche, and if nothing else, the return Sakic got in the trade should help to erase any hard feelings.

Plain and simple, Matt Duchene became one of the best players to ever wear an Avalanche jersey over his time with the franchise.

Duchene’s 178 goals rank him fourth in Avalanche history - behind only Sakic, Milan Hejduk, and Peter Forsberg. His 448 points put him sixth all time. He also sits fifth in game winning goals as an Avalanche.

It’s only going to be a year or two before he starts moving down those lists thanks to Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, but that doesn’t diminish what he did for the team and their fans.

Matt Duchene was a part of a ton of great memories for Avs fans, so let’s look back at a few of them.

His first NHL goal:

The shootout goal he scored to send the Avalanche to the playoffs in his rookie season:

His 100th career point:

His 200th career point:

The one that pissed off Patrick Roy:

This one is just incredibly pretty:

And then his last goal as a member of the Colorado Avalanche:

The team is keeping closed lips as to whether or not they will do any sort of video tribute for Duchene during the game tomorrow night, but you’d have to assume they will.

He grew up as a fan of the team - he literally cheered when he fell out of the second spot in the draft so that he could be drafted by the Avalanche. The split between Duchene and the team must have been as hard on him as it was for the fans who wore his jerseys to the games.

The end might not have been pretty, but Matt Duchene deserves a warm reception when he returns to the Pepsi Center. I’m sure he’ll get it.

What is your favorite memory of Matt Duchene in a Colorado Avalanche jersey?