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Avalanche already in regular-season mode

Anthony Cotton
The Denver Post

There isn’t an NHL team this side of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers that doesn’t have questions about the upcoming season. And with the days until the opener dwindling, the Avalanche, like every other team, is eager to start finding some answers.

“We have a couple of very important games coming up here,” coach Joe Sacco said after Tuesday’s practice. “We still have guys who are competing for spots on our club right now, and there’s been some good, healthy competition.”

For many teams, the preseason is a way to ease into the rigors of the regular season. But coming off a disappointing 32-45-5 season that was good for last place in the Northwest Division and led to myriad changes – including Sacco being hired to replace Tony Granato – the new coach admits the Avalanche has not been able to take that approach.



Instead, things have been done in earnest, in the hopes that, beginning Thursday against San Jose in the regular-season opener, the club will be able to compete and win.

“I can’t wait for Oct. 1,” Sacco said. “I have to remind myself every once in a while that the season hasn’t even started yet. I’m approaching every preseason game like it’s the regular season, and that’s been the team’s attitude.



“We have to get off to a good start this season; that’s no secret. We can’t wait until Oct. 1 to play hockey. We’re trying to be in regular-season mode right now as far as our practices, our tempo, the pace of everything, so that when Oct. 1 comes around, we’re not sitting around watching and going, ‘Wow, the intensity level’s really picked up.’ “

Of course, a really good goalie can make up for any number of on-ice foibles. On Tuesday Sacco said the good, healthy competition has extended to his netminders: newcomer Craig Anderson and returning Peter Budaj.

Both have excelled in the preseason, each starting a game and allowing only one goal.



“So far, so good,” said Anderson, who joined the Avs after playing with the Florida Panthers for parts of the past three seasons. “Right now, I just want to make sure I’m mentally prepared to play every game. . . . There’s no excuse not to be prepared, and the better prepared you are, the better you’ll play, and then the more you’ll play.”

Footnotes.

Defenseman Tom Preissing had arthroscopic knee surgery Monday and will be out four to six weeks. Preissing, who had not appeared in any of the Avs’ preseason contests, played in 22 games last season with the Kings, for whom he had three goals and four assists. The Avs did not divulge which knee was operated on. . . . Defenseman and team captain Adam Foote did not skate Tuesday, having been given what a team spokesman called a maintenance day. “We’ve been going about nine days in a row, and he’s a little banged up,” Sacco said. “But he’ll be fine.”

Anthony Cotton: 303-954-1292 or acotton@denverpost.com


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