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The Colorado Avalanche scored the fewest goals in the NHL last season en route to a last-place finish in the Western Conference. A pair of 18-year-olds may help the club avoid similar struggles in 2009-10.
After recording their first NHL points in an emotional season-opening victory, rookie centers Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly take the ice again Saturday when the Avalanche hosts their Northwest Division rival Vancouver Canucks.
The Avalanche, which hasn't begun a season with consecutive wins in eight years, averaged a league-low 2.3 goals in 2008-09, when the team recorded its fewest points (69) since 1994-95.
In Thursday's season opener, though, nine players tallied assists as Colorado defeated San Jose 5-2. A pregame ceremony for former Avalanche center Joe Sakic, who retired in July following 20 years with the organization, motivated the young Avs.
"I've been inspired by him since I was 8 years old," said Duchene, the third overall pick in the 2009 draft. "I had chills going up and down my spine the whole ceremony. It was an unbelievable night."
Duchene earned his first NHL point with an assist on John-Michael Liles' power-play goal in the second period. Duchene's one shot was stopped by Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
"Obviously, I had some chances offensively and I guess Nabokov had my number," Duchene said. "Knowing how to score on these goalies is going to come in time."
Duchene had 31 goals and 48 assists in 57 games with Brampton of the Ontario Hockey League last season.
O'Reilly, whom the Avalanche took 33rd overall in June's draft, also tallied an assist Thursday when he and Duchene became the first pair of 18-year-olds to start a season opener since Shane Doan and Jason Doig did it for the Winnipeg Jets in 1995-96.
"The younger guys really played our system to a T, and really did their job," Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson said.
Anderson, who signed with Colorado in the offseason after three seasons in Florida, made 38 saves against last season's Presidents' Trophy winners, 18 coming in the third period.
Anderson is 0-4-1 with a 3.54 goals-against average in five career games against the Canucks. He allowed five goals in his lone meeting with them last season.
Defending division champion Vancouver went 3-1-2 against Colorado last season, including 2-0-1 at the Pepsi Center. It'll try for its third straight win in Denver after losing Thursday's season opener, 5-3 at Calgary.
The Canucks rallied within 4-3 on Alex Burrows' goal 41 seconds into the third period, but they couldn't overcome a 3-0 first-period deficit.
"You can't spot a team like that a two- or three-goal lead and expect to win," coach Alain Vigneault said.
Kevin Bieksa and Mikael Samuelsson also scored for Vancouver, which outshot Calgary 28-8 following the Flames' fourth goal.
Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo made 18 saves in the loss. He was 2-1-1 with a 1.71 GAA against Colorado in 2008-09.
Avalanche left wing Wojtek Wolski scored twice Thursday, his sixth career multi-goal game and first since a 2-1 win at Nashville on Jan. 6. Wolski has three goals and 11 assists in 19 career games versus the Canucks.
Colorado is 10-3-2 at home against Vancouver since Oct. 27, 2005.