Colorado Avalanche: 5 Players Who Need to Step It Up to Make the Team

Chris Hoffman@@cs_hoffmanContributor IIISeptember 29, 2011

Colorado Avalanche: 5 Players Who Need to Step It Up to Make the Team

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    The NHL regular season starts on Oct. 6, which is a little over a week from today. The Avalanche currently find themselves 1-3 in the preseason. Their one win was a very impressive 3-0 win over Dallas in which they outshot the Stars 31-16. The other two games have been contests the team would like to forget, including a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.

    Several players, including rookie defensemen Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott, left wing Gabriel Landeskog and newcomer Joakim Lindstrom, have put forth very solid preseason efforts and have a great chance to make the opening night roster.

    Several others are still leaving a lot to be desired and really need to step up their game if they want to have a shot to take the ice against the Red Wings on Oct. 8.

TJ Galiardi

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    Galiardi made waves in Avalanche media coverage at the beginning of training camp when he showed up having added some serious muscle to his skinny frame in the offseason. He initially looked quick on his feet in practice and was consistently placed on one of the top two scoring lines.

    Since that first week, his play has dropped off significantly. He has seen his playing time with the third and fourth lines during preseason games and has struggled to produce. Galiardi only played for 7:45 against Los Angeles and ended the game a minus-two.

    That is a stat that will have to change if he is going to see regular NHL playing time this season.

Jay McClement

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    Jay McClement has struggled since coming to the Avalanche from the St. Louis Blues in the Erik Johnson trade. He has continued to struggle in the 2011 preseason. He rarely makes a positive impact on the ice. McClement seems to be invisible until he makes a mistake.

    He is a prime candidate to be moved via a trade, but with the quality of his play lately, he won't command much that is worth trading for. If prospect Joey Hishon (concussion) was healthy, he could have really had a shot at replacing McClement on the Colorado roster. Another rookie center, Brad Malone, is making a serious run at McClement's starting job.

Chuck Kobasew

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    Kobasew, acquired as a free agent this past offseason, has looked slow and uninspired so far. He has had some decent moments playing on a grinding line with enforcer Patrick Bordeleau, but overall, he hasn't contributed much either offensively or defensively.

    The Avalanche were obviously trying to get tougher after a dismal 2010-11 season in which they got pushed around far too often, but Kobasew hasn't been a solution to that issue. He has been a non-factor in most of the Avs preseason matchups. Kobasew needs to show a spark of life if he is expecting quality minutes in Colorado this season.

Brad Malone

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    The former UND standout has been given every opportunity to stay at the NHL level in his first preseason with the Avalanche. In many ways, he has shown that he has the strength, size and skill to stay with Colorado this season. But he has been too much of a non-factor in the last two contests.

    Malone was a minus-one against the Kings (respectable, when you consider the Avs lost 6-0), and even against the Stars in a 3-0 win. Jay McClement (mentioned in a previous slide) is not playing well currently, so Malone certainly has a shot to make the opening night roster. But to do so, he'll have to step it up heading into the last week of the preseason.

Matt Duchene

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    Ok, let's be real. There's no way Matt Duchene doesn't play a first or second line center role for the Avalanche this season. But as a top center, he will be expected to put the puck in the net. So far through three preseason games, Duchene has one assist.

    Sure, it's only three preseason games. And to be fair, Duchene has looked good on most of his shifts. But this team has a much smaller margin for mistakes after the horrible numbers they put up last season.

    Colorado fans are nervous‚ with good reason. There is a cautious optimism around the team heading into this season, but that optimism is fragile. And nothing crushes fragile hope like a team's leading scorer failing to produce. The pressure is on Duchene to have a career season in the points category to get this Avalanche team back to their winning ways.