Regular season hockey is back at the Pepsi Center and unlike a year ago, Colorado Avalanche fans have a ton of reason to be optimistic.
With a bounce back season in the books, this year stands to be the next step in the evolution of a young Avs team that is building towards contention. There are plenty of reasons to be excited. A new goalie. A crop of youngsters that are still growing towards their prime, and of course that #29 guy.
As if the excitement of opening night weren’t enough, Major League Baseball did us all a favor and scheduled the Rockies playoff game for 3:07 this afternoon.
It’s absolute perfect timing; check out of work early, catch Game 1 of the NLDS, then snuggle in to watch the Avalanche skate circles around the Wild.
Exactly.— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) October 4, 2018
Where do we start with this team? How about with one of the best lines in all of hockey.
Nathan MacKinnon was robbed of the Hart Trophy last season. Hopefully this year he can build on his breakout campaign, stay healthy and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he deserves to be looked at as one of the best players in the game.
Mikko Rantanen will once again be riding shotgun. He’s in a contract year so there is a little extra incentive to repeat the incredible performance from last season.
The big thing for the Avs this year will be internal growth. If Colorado wants to get back to the playoffs, it’s going to take a big step forward from guys like Tyson Jost and Sam Girard. The two sophomores are going to be relied on this season and both have the talent level to become legitimate impact NHLers.
Yesterday afternoon, the Avs assigned Dominic Toninato to the Colorado Eagles, finalizing their roster for tonight’s opener. That means the Sheldon Dries has won a spot in the lineup. He will lineup on the fourth line with J.T. Compher and Matt Calvert - a trio that should bring a ton of energy to the forecheck.
Mark Barberio will begin the season in the press box as the 7th defender.
This afternoon the Avs activated both Vladislav Kamenev and Anton Lindholm from the the IR and have assigned them to the Eagles. That means the team is running with only 21 healthy bodies for the game tonight.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Alex Kerfoot - Tyson Jost - Colin Wilson
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Gabriel Bourque
Matt Calvert - J.T. Compher - Sheldon Dries
Sam Girard - Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Ian Cole - Patrik Nemeth
“It’s game one and we’re all excited,” said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. “Let’s hope we’re all ready to play. I know game one last year, and even game two ... not that we weren’t ready, but we didn’t have the way we wanted to play, I don’t think, quite down.”
The Wild are into their second season in Boudreau’s system. One of the best coaches in the league will be working with an aging roster as he tries to lead the Wild to an improvement on last year’s 101 point season.
Though they rely heavily on their veterans, a third line of Charlie Coyle, Jordan Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek should being youth and excitement to the lineup
A healthy Nino Niederreiter will give the team a huge boost this season.
Jason Zucker - Eric Staal - Mikael Granlund
Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Nino Niederreiter
Charlie Coyle - Jordan Greenway - Joel Eriksson Ek
Marcus Foligno - Eric Fehr - Matt Read
Ryan Suter - Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin - Jared Spurgeon
Nick Seeler - Greg Pateryn
Semyon Varlamov gets the start to begin what is likely the biggest season of his career. For the first time Varly has a backup to push him and potentially take over. A little competition might be a good thing as Varlamov is going to be looking to prove himself leading into free agency this summer.
In another injury-filled season, Varlomov finished last year with a 24-16-6 record and a .920 save percentage.
For the Wild we’re going to see Devan Dubnyk. The veteran netminder had a bit of a down season last year posting a .918 sv%.
How to watch
Unlike the preseason games, we don’t have to worry about the game being televised. The game will be on Altitude, so flip over the second the Rockies game ends.