CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco expects 26 players to be in training camp as soon as the players ratify the new collective bargaining agreement.
“We can only keep 23 so there will be some healthy internal competition on the ice for spots,” said Sacco on Friday when he met with members of the media at the Family Sports Center. “We will be looking over the course of the period of five days to watch these players and we’ll make our decision then on who stays.”
Of those 26, six will be Avalanche prospects from Lake Erie, the team’s American Hockey League affiliate. The Monsters players expected to be at training camp will be defensemen Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott and forwards Patrick Bordeleau, Mark Olver, Michael Sgarbossa and David Van Der Gulik. Only Bordeleau and Sgarbossa have yet to see game action in an Avs sweater.
With less than a week to prepare for the regular season – and with no preseason games – Sacco said the players should expect an increase in workload each day of the abbreviated camp.
“We don’t have a lot of time to wait so we are looking for guys ready to play straight off the hop,” he said. “That sense of urgency, you’ll see that right from day one of camp and you’ll see it carry over through the 48-game season. Every team is in the same boat here. Every team wants to get out of the gates running here and we are in the same predicament.”
A big topic of debate across the league recently has been who benefits more in a 48-game schedule, young players or veterans. This topic topic was brought up to Sacco in regards to Milan Hejduk, the club’s oldest player at 36 years of age.
However it didn’t take long for the Colorado head coach to respond with a confident “I think it will benefit him.”
“I have had the chance to watch him (Hejduk) the last couple of days here, looking out my window, and he looks like he has some good jump in his stride and looks light on his feet,” Sacco said. “I think [the long break] has benefitted him. He takes pride in his play and his commitment to fitness and he looks a little bit recharged. I really think it will benefit him having the short schedule.”
With the players having yet to ratify the CBA (expected on Saturday), Sacco hasn’t been able to “coach” his players during this past week’s player-ran practices.
But what he has seen from the window of his second floor office at the Avalanche practice facility has no doubt excited him – just in case the beginning of a new hockey season didn’t already.
“Moods and spirits are high and everybody is excited to be back. They all (the players) have a lot of enthusiasm,” Sacco said. “There’s some good jump and pace in their steps. It’s exciting for everybody and it has certainly been a long time coming. I can tell our players are very excited as well.”
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