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Defense Taking Shape

Coach Patrick Roy gives possible defensive pairings and competition

Wednesday, 09.25.2013 / 5:00 PM / News
By Ron Knabenbauer

Patrick Roy could still change his mind in the next week, but the Avalanche head coach gave a glimpse of what he is envisioning for his defensive pairings after Wednesday's practice at Pepsi Center.

Talking outside the Colorado locker room, Roy said he plans on using 13 forwards and eight defensemen when the club begins the 2013-14 regular season in a week against the Anaheim Ducks.

He said his defensive pairings would likely be Andre Benoit and Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie and Ryan Wilson, and Jan Hejda and Cory Sarich. Wilson has missed the last 10 days with a minor knee injury, but he is expected to be ready for opening night.

Hunwick

Matt Hunwick, Nick Holden or Nate Guenin will fill the final two defensive spots.

"There is going to have to be decisions made there," Roy said about the final two D-men for his 23-man opening night roster.

The Avs' roster currently sits at 27 players, and all of them will be on the team's two-game road trip to close out the preseason. That likely means Hunwick, Holden and Guenin will see significant time in Colorado's games Thursday against Dallas and Saturday against Los Angeles as they attempt to make the NHL roster.

Holden

Holden and Guenin, two free agent pick-ups over the summer, have been pleasant surprises for Roy and his coaching staff, and both will look to continue to impress and beat out the Avs veteran Hunwick.

"It’s a good situation we’re in," Roy said of the defensive competition after Tuesday's game versus Dallas. "It’s a nice problem to have.”

As for the forwards, there is likely only one spot available with Brad Malone, Guillaume Desbiens and Marc-Andre Cliche all competing for it.

Guenin

In Malone's case, he said he is just focusing on what he can control.

“Honestly, I’m just taking it day by day," Malone said after Tuesday's game. "Just trying to go out and work hard and find the system here.”

Another player to watch over the next two games is Nathan MacKinnon, who has missed the last three preseason games with a hip injury.

The Avalanche's 2013 first-round selection's injury was diagnosed prior to training camp and is not considered serious. He is expected to play both Thursday and Saturday, and Roy said before Tuesday's game that MacKinnon could have played in that contest as well if it wasn't the preseason.

"No way would [head athletic trainer] Matt [Sokolowski] let him play if he wasn't convinced that he was 100 percent ready, especially in an exhibition game," Roy said of MacKinnon's health. "I have zero concerns."

Despite Colorado carrying three goalies for the road trip, don't expect Sami Aittokallio to see too much playing time. Semyon Varlamov is slated for the start on Thursday and Jean-Sebastien Giguere is expected to play Saturday.

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