September 24 2008, 8:42 AM
Perk up Rockies fans. Coors field may be locking its gate for the season, but another team in town is quite possibly championship ready--and I'm not talking about the Broncos. Colorado Avalanche general manager Francois Giguere was recently cited as having no doubts about the team staying in the race for the sacred Stanley Cup, despite predictions from critics that they have no chance of making the playoffs this season. With a strong defense, good offense, and an experienced goaltender (plus some newbies), the Avs may have more than just luck to help them start out on the right skate come the first game, which is coming up October 9 at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche touched the ice this past weekend at the Family Sports Center in Centennial for a two-day training camp to kick off the season. This year, 59 names made the list, up from 47 in 2007, making the challenge greater for the players but more exciting for the 200-300 fans in attendance both days. For true Avs aficionados, this was a chance to scope out the talent and share insider gossip about who might make the cut. Veterans and rookies played side-by-side with big cheers for celebrated vets, including captain Joe Sakic, Lappy, and Footer. In the fight for roster slots, it's every man for himself. Those who don't make it will still have a shot at getting on the AHL and ECHL development teams. With no recent news about more cuts, there are only a few weeks left until that first game, when the final rosters are printed. The weekend camp followed the four-day rookie camp held last week for 27 hopefuls ready to prove themselves to the coaching staff. Two familiar faces on the ice included David Jones and T.J. Hensick, along with Darcy Campbell, recently acquired from Columbus along with Philippe Dupuis, and four up-and-coming players selected in the 2008 entry draft. But is a plethora of young talent going to give the Avs the boost they need? Some fear that losing forward Andrew Brunette, defensemen Jeff Finger and Kurt Sauer, as well as goaltender Jose Theodore is enough to really hurt the team's chances of advancing to the playoffs. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's illuminating Joe Sakic. With Sakic's eleventh-hour decision to return for a 20th season, plus the addition of several experienced NHLers, the chemistry may spark sooner than critics think. Plus, the rookies are ready for their shot at a spot, which, if nothing else, could keep the veterans on their toes. Coming Up Wednesday, Sept 24. Preseason opener at the Pepsi Center against the L.A. Kings. There are just six preseason games for the players to prove they want it and possibly get their chance to open the regular season against the Boston Bruins, on October 9 at 8 p.m.