In just under two months, the Colorado Avalanche will be playing in their first preseason game, gearing up for the 2012-13 regular season.
The Avalanche brass has been working tirelessly this offseason on bringing players from last season’s roster back to Denver as well as a few key free agents. Colorado’s major signings and re-signings include Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson and P.A. Parenteau, who will look to lead the Avs to the postseason for the first time since 2010.
Colorado finished last season with 88 points and will need at least that many to make the playoffs this upcoming season.
There are many important games for the Avs next season, but here are five of the biggest.
*Colorado's full 2012-13 schedule can be viewed here.*
Matchup: October 11 vs. St. Louis Blues, 10 p.m. ET
The Colorado Avalanche will kick off the 2012-13 season with a bang, playing against the Western Conference’s second-best team last season, the St. Louis Blues. St. Louis would make it to the conference semifinals, but were swept by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Colorado and St. Louis split the regular-season series last season with the Avs taking the first two games and the Blues taking the final two. Two of the matchups required extra time and each game had at least four goals scored.
It’s very important that Colorado gets off to a hot start and this should be a relatively close game. The Avs will need to rely on Semyon Varlamov in order to put this game in their favor.
Prediction: Colorado wins 4-2.
Matchup: November 30 vs. Minnesota Wild, 9 p.m. ET
The Minnesota Wild made arguably the biggest splash during free agency this offseason, signing both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to blockbuster contracts.
The division-rival Wild now have a very improved team that should be a force in the Western Conference. Colorado split the six-game regular-season series against the Wild last season and this season will be even tougher to match that.
The Avs defenders will have a tough time keeping the high-powered Wild offense in check, while also trying to contain their powerful defenders.
Varlamov and Colorado will definitely have their hands full with the Wild this season.
Prediction: Minnesota wins 4-1.
Matchup: December 2 vs. Los Angeles Kings, 8 p.m. ET
The Los Angeles Kings made one of the most improbable runs in NHL history last season as the No. 8 seed in the playoffs. The Kings overcame opponent after opponent to finally raise the Stanley Cup and bring it to Los Angeles.
Los Angeles hasn’t done much to improve its team from last season, but we all know how hard-working and resilient it can be. I expect this matchup to go in favor of Colorado, doing its best to upend the Stanley Cup champs.
That task will not be easy, however, since the Kings do have one of the best goalies in professional hockey, Jonathan Quick. Colorado does have the talent and scorers capable of putting the puck past Quick, but it definitely will be closely contested matchup.
Prediction: Colorado wins 2-1 (OT).
Matchup: February 13 vs. Florida Panthers, 9:30 p.m. ET
As I mentioned earlier, the Colorado Avalanche put an emphasis on signing players from last season’s roster to new deals, but Peter Mueller was a player that they decided to let walk away.
Mueller was under contract with the Avs for three seasons, but only actually played in two. In 47 career games with Colorado, Mueller scored 16 goals and had 20 assists. He has since signed with Florida, hence the importance of this game.
Mueller should look to make his former team regret not offering him a deal to return and I think there’s a good chance he puts one past Varlamov in net.
Florida was the third-best team in the Eastern Conference last season, but I think that the Avs have a good shot at taking the Panthers down.
Prediction: Colorado wins 3-2.
Matchup: April 13 vs. Detroit Red Wings, 3 p.m. ET
The Colorado Avalanche will have hopefully locked up a playoff spot before the last game of the season, but if not, this game could be very important.
The Avs' rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings is one of the most exciting in all of hockey, which adds that much more intensity to this game. The Red Wings are one of the most talented teams in the NHL and have several future Hall of Famers. Stopping their scorers is a very difficult task.
Varlamov showed that he can be a pretty solid goalie last season, but playing Detroit is a completely different story. This could end up being a must-win game for the Avs, but unfortunately, I think that Detroit takes this matchup.
Prediction: Detroit wins 3-0.