DENVER - Opening their first Stanley Cup Playoff series in four years, the Colorado Avalanche will host the Minnesota Wild Thursday evening at the Pepsi Center.
Recent history suggests the Avalanche will have an advantage. They've faced off against the wild five times so far this season and won four of those meetings. Two of the games ended in shootouts, one of which accounted for the Wild's only win over the Avs this season.
For Colorado Coach Patrick Roy, the playoff series is a chance at revenge. His Hall of Fame goaltending career in Colorado ended with a heartbreaking loss to Minnesota on an overtime goal in Game 7 of the 2003 postseason.
"As a player you're a difference maker, you're on the ice, you have a direct impact," he said. "As a coach, you have to watch. You have to be mentally sharp. You have to adjust if you see something happening, you can help the players to adjust whatever they are going to throw at you. I just want to make sure we are ready for all kinds of situations."
Roy says he's not nervous for the series to begin, just "anxious to see the puck drop. When you're well prepared, you're not nervous, you're anxious."
Players also said they are anxious to lace up their skates.
"I think we've been waiting three days now, feels like a week. So we are really excited to get this thing started tomorrow, can't wait to step on the ice," Defenseman Tyson Barrie said.
"We've prepared, we've studied them but we believe we got a really good group in this room and you know it starts with us," said Defenseman Nate Guenin.
All season long, Roy's preached an even-keel attitude to his team. The stage and stakes may be bigger, but he's trying to keep their focus only on the next shift and nothing farther.
"To start the season you have 30 teams that their goal is to win the Stanley Cup, now we're down to 16," said Joe Sakic, Avalanche vice president of hockey operations and alternate governor. "We all know what the playoffs are and how exciting they are and I know the players are looking forward to it."
Other Thursday night games are Philadelphia at the New York Rangers, Chicago at St. Louis and Los Angeles at San Jose.
Schedule for the playoff series between Minnesota and Colorado:
- Thursday, April 17: Minnesota at Colorado, 9:30 p.m.
- Saturday, April 19: Minnesota at Colorado, 9:30 p.m.
- Monday, April 21: Colorado at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
- Thursday, April 24: Colorado at Minnesota, 9:30 p.m.
- Saturday, April 26: Minnesota at Colorado, TBD
- Monday, April 28: Colorado at Minnesota, TBD
- Wednesday, April 30: Minnesota at Colorado, TBD