Fans fill bleachers as Avalanche open camp
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The fans crammed into the bleachers and lined one side of the ice rink, waiting for the Colorado Avalanche to take the ice.
Maybe they were there to simply catch a glimpse of the Avalanche during their first official practice since the lockout was lifted.
Or maybe they filled the tiny facility on Sunday because it was a way to forget — at least for a moment — the Denver Broncos' stinging loss the day before to Baltimore that ended a promising season and sent the city into a somber mood.
Either way, the players were sure appreciative. A little shocked even, when they were greeted by cheers as they stepped out of the locker room and onto the ice.
They expected maybe a handful of fans to show up. Just nothing like this.
"For us to go out there and see a full barn, wow, that's exciting," defenseman Shane O'Brien said after a two-hour practice. "It's a good feeling. The boys had a good practice today."
With time now of the essence, the Avalanche jumped right in and were put through a pretty up-tempo workout by coach Joe Sacco. They open the season next Saturday in Minnesota against a Wild team that could be a Stanley Cup contender.
For the Avalanche to have any hope of slipping into that conversation, well, they have to get on the same page in a hurry. The team has quite a few new additions, including forwards P.A. Parenteau and John Mitchell, along with defenseman Greg Zanon.
One familiar face missing from practice on Sunday was Ryan O'Reilly, who's playing overseas as he and the team try to work out a deal. The player nicknamed "Factor" for his big-play ability was the team's leading scorer last season.
"Obviously, we want 'Factor' back," center Matt Duchene said. "At the same time, I'm only worried about what I'm going to do for the team. Each guy is worried about their role and how they're going to help this team. We're all links in the chain and have to be strong so we can win.
"We can't worry about who's not here and just who is."
Just one practice in and already Colorado's top line of captain Gabriel Landeskog, Duchene and Parenteau appears to be clicking. They had a solid morning session, scoring a few nifty goals in 5-on-5 drills.
"Feels really good to be here, actually," said Parenteau, who arrived in town after playing last season with the New York Islanders. "It took too long before I got to meet my new teammates and new city. This is a pretty good group of guys."
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