The long wait to watch official Colorado Avalanche hockey games ends tonight, when the Avs take on the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks at 8 p.m. at the Pepsi Center (full schedule via

Colorado is confident it can improve upon last season’s surprise playoff run, but Avalanche and hockey bloggers aren’t so sure. Mile High Hockey gathers opinions from dozens of bloggers, with projections ranging from the Avs being a terrible team that will finish poorly enough to receive a lottery draft pick next year, to the Avs finishing even better than last year. Most agree, though, that the Avalanche won’t be able to knock out the Vancouver Canucks, last year’s division winners.

Still, the Avs boast the one-two punch of Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny, who form the heart of the team’s youth-rebuilding effort. The Denver Post compares them to the dynamic duo that was Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, one of the best pairs of hockey players ever and a key reason the Avalanche won two Stanley Cup Championships after moving to Denver in the mid-1990s. But Stastny shies away from the connection. “We’ll never compare ourselves to anyone, and we want to make our own identity, do our own thing,” he says.

Nevertheless, if they come close to duplicating the success of Forsberg and Sakic, perhaps one day they’ll be part of a ceremony similar to the one taking place before tonight’s game, when more than 20 Avs players from the inaugural 1995-96 season will be honored (via Denver Daily News).