Avalanche must cut 4 players before opening night
Four preseason games played and the Colorado Avalanche’s opening night roster is close to set. A total of 58 players reported to training camp and one week before the regular season opens, 27 players remain.
Head coach Patrick Roy made it clear weeks ago which forwards would comprise the top three lines, and so far he has kept his word besides one slight change. Roy switched Steve Downie from the third line to the top line to play along Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, and P.A. Parenteau will skate with Jamie McGinn and rookie Nathan MacKinnon on the third line in order to bring more balance to the offense. Downie brings a gritty element to the top line and Parenteau will add a scoring punch to the third line.
The real questions in camp weren’t so much about the Avs’ top three lines, but more about the fourth line and the defense. Seven days and two preseason games to go the roster is shaping up, but a few decision still must be made.
The battle here seems to be between three players: Brad Malone, Guillaume Desbiens, and newly signed Marc-André Cliche. Roy said Wednesday that the Avalanche will keep 13 forwards and eight defenseman to start the season, with 12 forwards assumed to have locked roster spots (players mentioned by Roy to make up top three lines in addition to Cody McLeod, Patrick Bordeleau, and John Mitchell).
Therefore, the fourth line battle is between Malone, Desbiens, and Marc-Andre Cliche. Malone has score two goals so far this preseason and is tied for the team lead. A strong final push in the last two games could land Malone a roster spot, but the Denver Post reported that Roy stated at practice Wednesday that he considers Cliche his 13th forward. Time will tell how this situation ends.
Roy also revealed his projected defensive pairings to start the season at practice Wednesday: Andre Benoit and Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie and Ryan Wilson, and Jan Hejda and Cory Sarich, leaving two spots left to fill Roy’s intention of having eight defenseman on the roster.
After Stefan Elliot was cut, Matt Hunwick, Nate Holden, and Nate Guenin will fight for the last slots. On a given night in the regular season the Avalanche will probably only dress six or seven defenseman. Ryan Wilson is currently injured, so his spot is the lineup will be the prized slot to be battled for, but Wilson could be ready to go by opening night. Hunwick has been with the Avs for a few seasons now and has been a part of a disappointing Avalanche defense. Guenin and Holden bring more size to the table and Holden adds an offensive dimension to his game to set him self apart from Guenin.