Ishockey NHLThe Colorado Avalanche start the 2009-10 campaign tonight at the Pepsi Center, taking on the San Jose Sharks on the Avs’ journey back to relevance.

Any NHL fan in Colorado knows that last year was brutal: The Avs scored an NHL-low 190 goals and finished in the cellar of the Western Conference, tallying 69 points en route to the team’s worst season since relocating to Denver from Quebec in 1995 (via CBS Sports). The Denver Post predicts the Avalanche will finish 13th in the Western Conference and could be a couple seasons away from a serious run at the playoffs.

That said, the team’s youth movement will be fun to watch, including number-one draft pick Matt Duchene, who needs to help the Avs’ proven offensive talents–Paul Stastny, Marek Svatos and Milan Hejduk–create some magic. The Mile High Hockey blogger roundtable is also a collection of doom and gloom, mixed with optimism for the coming years if the teams’ young stars can develop.

The highlight of tonight for me, and for most other Colorado hockey fans, will be when the number 19 jersey of Joe Sakic (pictured) is retired. It figures to be an emotional moment. Sakic is one of the all-time best professional athletes Denver has had the privilege of hosting. Former Avs great Peter Forsberg is making the trip from his native Sweden to attend the game specifically for the ceremony, writes The Denver Post.

Let’s hope some of the good mojo from the ceremony will carry into the game.