Sakic set for
Avs opener

Sep 25, 2006 10:40 PM

Didn’t the hockey season just end?

What little offseason there is in the NHL ends Wednesday, Oct. 4 when the Avalanche begins their 2006-07 campaign against the Dallas Stars. Colorado opened at 20-1 at Caesars Palace Race and Sports Book in Las Vegas to win the Stanley Cup. Money came in on Colorado, lowering the odds to 12-1.

Last year, the Avs had to learn how to succeed without their longtime standout center Peter Forsberg. This season, Colorado is without All Star defenseman Rob Blake, who after five years with the Avs returned to his former team, the Los Angeles Kings.

The corps of the Avs is in the high-scoring first line of Joe Sakic, Milan Heyduk and Andrew Brunette. Jose Theodore is being counted on to return to the form that made him one of the league’s top-ranked goalies with the Montreal Canadiens.

Dallas is rated along with Ottawa as the co-second choice at 5-1 to skate away with the Cup. Colorado’s arch rival Detroit tops the field at 7-2, while defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina is fifth at 7-1. The San Jose Sharks (6-1), Anaheim Ducks (8-1) and Buffalo Sabres (8-1) are the other NHL teams at below 10-1 to take the Cup.

If the Avs are again to contend for the Cup, they will need another standout season from Sakic. The Avs’ captain is the team’s all-time leading goal scorer (574), points producer (1,489) and iron man (1,237 games). The 38-year-old Sakic will be starting his 19th season in the NHL, having began his career in 1987 with the former Quebec Nordiques.

Sakic played with Hall of Famer Peter Stastny at Quebec and now has a chance to play with Peter’s son Paul, one of several rookies that figure prominently in Colorado’s plans this season.

The younger Stastny played for the University of Denver last year and has been on a line in preseason with Wojtek Wolski and top draft pick Chris Stewart. The trio combined for 13 shots in a victory last week over the Red Wings.

Colorado plays its first road game of the season Thursday, Oct. 5 at Minnesota, then returns to the Pepsi Center to face Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 8.