So, Avs Nation, the training camp has sure whetted your appetite, right? Well, as fun as the scrimmages during training camp were, the real deal is the annual Burgundy and White game. Avalanche players pit against each other. Some are prospects looking to force a way onto the team. Others are veterans getting their ice legs back. In the middle are a few players who were on the roster last season but know they have to earn their place again this year.
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog admits it can be tricky playing against teammates. During a post-camp press conference, he stated all the early games are “a little hard to play.” He added:
"“You don’t know your linemates that well. It’s a little hard – everybody’s all over the place. Just trying to get into the timing, and trying to get a feel for the puck. The timing is usually what takes longest. But, the only way to get into it is play.”"
It’s a little tough for the fans, too, for some of the same reasons. Maybe a favorite player got traded or signed with a new team. Lines change. Players come back a little different from their summer training — usually better, but different. And, yes, those lines are different, and, yes, sometimes you can’t remember who a player is because he’s a prospect or a recent acquisition.
That’s ok. Some of the stories that got started in training camp will get played out during the Burgundy and White game.
Jarome Iginla is Still a Force
“Every time (Iginla) steps out on the ice, he’s going to have defensemen knowing that he’s out there.” – Gabriel Landeskog
It’s all over Twitter, Facebook and general commentary — Iginla is going to have no trouble serving his worth on a line with star center Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. He’s so strong. He’s in excellent condition. He hasn’t said it, but if teenager Nathan MacKinnon’s operating at nine percent body fat, Iginla’s probably right around there. He’s a work horse.
He’s tough, too. He’s not afraid of any aspect of the play. It’s said he adds 10 pounds of muscle to his linemates. Landeskog points out that he makes opposing defensemen aware of his presence on the ice.
Iginla may not play on the line with Duchene and O’Reilly during the Burgundy and White game — he was on a line with MacKinnon during the training camp scrimmages. No, he’s not as fast as MacKinnon, but it doesn’t matter. He opens space for his linemates to streak down the ice.
So, during the Burgundy and White game, watch out for #12 — he might be in the middle of some scrum.
Danny Briere Has Finesse
Briere’s small and scrappy, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have soft hands. He can handle that puck. And, being smaller, he can squirt through some spaces bigger guys can’t. I saw him dance around cornerstone defenseman Erik Johnson a little during drills, and that’s no easy feat.
For now, head coach Patrick Roy is talking about playing Briere on the third line. However, if he needs to center a fourth line, he’s going to add that layer of finesse that was missing last season from the so-called “energy line.”
Look for #48 to make smooth tape-to-tape passes and accurate shots on net.
Duncan Siemens is Ready
Siemens is chomping at the bit to make the lineup. He was selected 11th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft (somebody had to be #11 in ’11). He has yet to skate as an Avalanche. However, during camp, he showed skill, grit and hockey sense.
He also showed chemistry with Johnson. Siemen may not be quite as strong a skater as Johnson, but he kept up when they were paired together during the scrimmages. They communicated well and seemed to be in sync when transitioning from offense to defense.
Watch out for #16, speeding around and yelling for “EJ!” to pass the puck, if they’re paired together again.
Jury’s Still Out on Brad Stuart
Speaking of defensemen — and pairings for Johnson — Stuart has gotten off to a slowish start. No need to panic — as Landeskog pointed out, timing and chemistry don’t come right away. And he hasn’t been paired with Johnson yet. (He also hasn’t even been on the ice at the same time as Landeskog — probably not on purpose…)
His skating is good, and he’s quick. He’s aware in his zone and of the offensive threats from the other team. He’s probably not going to show any nastiness against his new teammates — Landeskog did specifically request no hitting in practice! Joking aside, Stuart is definitely one to watch.
So, #17 on the ice — what’s he going to do during the Burgundy and White game?
Of course, MacKinnon’s new strength and explosiveness are another storyline. Plus, Duchene’s skating and puck handling are as dynamic as they’ve always been. Backup goalie Reto Berra is fighting for his job — he did well during training camp, but he’s going to want to be in top form during the Burgundy and White game.
So, in short, Avs Nation, hockey season is back, and it’s looking better by the day.