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The Avalanche took 27 players on its preseason-ending, two-game road trip to Dallas and Las Vegas, which ends tonight with Colorado facing Los Angeles at 8 p.m. (MT) in the second game of Frozen Fury XV.
The National Hockey League, however, requires a regular-season roster size of 23, so more than just an exhibition win or loss will be on the line when the Avs and Kings skate at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Roster spots will be up for grabs.
Colorado opened its training camp Sept. 8 with 58 players, so the club has already done a lot of trimming in preparation for the 2013-14 season. But more needs to be done, with four more decisions still needing to be made.
Seeing how those roster cuts play out and seeing how the Avalanche bounces back from its 5-1 loss to Dallas on Thursday are the two biggest storylines heading into tonight’s preseason finale.
Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said this week he plans for his Opening Night roster to include 13 forwards and eight defensemen, and he revealed his defensive pairings, too, saying Andre Benoit and Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie and Ryan Wilson, and Jan Hejda and Cory Sarich would man his top three shifts.
“There is going to have to be decisions made there,” Roy said this week when asked about his 23-man roster.
The Avalanche is finishing off tonight a preseason schedule that included six games in 11 days, so those players still on the bubble—like forwards Brad Malone, Guillaume Desbiens and newcomer Marc-Andre Cliche—will have to battle through mental and physical fatigue to earn an NHL Opening Night roster spot.
With so much excitement for Opening Night built up this past offseason, Colorado has much to gain tonight from a strong showing in the desert—and so do some of its players.
“Honestly, I’m just taking it day by day,” Malone said following Tuesday’s game. “[I’m] just trying to go out and work hard and find the system here.”
Los Angeles hosted Colorado in Las Vegas in the very first Frozen Fury game (Frozen Fury I - 1997), and the teams have faced off 13 times since in the nearly annual preseason event’s history.
The Fury has been held in 14 preseasons since 1997—it was skipped in 2004 and 2012—and Colorado has faced the Kings in all but two of those years, playing two Fury games in 1998. The Avalanche is 5-6-2 against L.A. in the Frozen Fury, having won two of the past four meetings, including earning a 4-1 win in 2011
Nathan MacKinnon, this summer’s No. 1 overall draft selection, returned Thursday night against Dallas from a minor hip injury and played nearly 18 minutes (17:50). He’s expected to be on the ice again tonight as he continues to ready himself for his first Opening Night.
There will be no television broadcast or online stream of tonight’s game in Las Vegas, but it will be broadcast live on the Altitude Radio Network, including on AM 950 in Denver and online at www.cruisinoldies950.com (U.S. only).
Marc Moser and Peter McNab will call the action, and Mark Bertagnolli will handle studio hosting and production duties.
The best way to stay up to date on all things Avalanche is via the club’s website at avalanche.nhl.com, but the franchise has a great presence across multiple social media platforms, too…Fans and media alike are encouraged to follow the Avs on Facebook (facebook.com/coloradoavalanche), on Twitter (@avalanche), on Instagram (instagram.com/coloradoavalanche) and on Google+ (avalancheNHL).