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After strong opener, Avalanche strive to slide past Sharks

The Colorado Avalanche shook up their roster in the offseason with a win-now approach to 2023-24, and for one game it looks like the pieces fit. The San Jose Sharks, on the other hand, are building the foundation for success in the future.

The opposite philosophies will be on display when the two teams meet Saturday night in San Jose.

Colorado is starting the season with a road-heavy schedule that began with a 5-2 win at Los Angeles on Wednesday night. The Avalanche got scoring from familiar names — Nathan MacKinnon (three points), Mikko Rantanen (four) and Cale Makar (two) led the way, much as they did last year — but the team is confident in the rest of the lineup.

The restructured third line of Ross Colton, Miles Wood and Tomas Tatar produced two points and ate up valuable ice time, an issue last year when Colorado relied heavily on its top guys.

With captain Gabriel Landeskog (knee) already ruled out for the season, Jonathan Drouin played on the line with MacKinnon and Rantanen and fit in seamlessly.

“Playing with those two — they are very special,” Drouin said. “I’ve said it for a while now, but we saw it firsthand.”

The biggest news for the Avalanche heading into Saturday night was signing defenseman Devon Toews to a seven-year extension that will pay him $50.75 million, starting next year. Toews has been on the top blue-line pairing with Makar since coming to Colorado in a trade with the New York Islanders in 2020 and has seen offensive production increase.

The Sharks are facing a tough start to the season. Thursday night they hosted the reigning Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights and now have to face the Avalanche, who won it all in 2022.

The young San Jose team is dealing with injuries to two of its veterans. Captain Logan Couture (lower body injury) didn’t play in the game against Vegas and had a setback in his rehab, which means he will miss multiple weeks. The man who is filling in as the second-line center for Couture, Mikael Granlund, was placed on injured reserve on Friday. He didn’t play much in the third period on Thursday night after aggravating a lower-body injury he was dealing with in training camp.

On the positive side, forward Filip Zadina had a solid debut for the Sharks. The 23-year-old Zadina was a 2018 first-round draft choice of Detroit and signed a cap-friendly $1.1 million deal with San Jose this offseason, leaving money on the table with the Red Wings.

Zadina was looking for a fresh start and it began well. He scored the lone goal in the 4-1 loss to the visiting Knights while playing on the top line alongside fellow Czech Tomas Hertl.

“Really fortunate that I can play with Tomas,” Zadina said. “As I said before many times, he’s one of the best centers in the league, and I’m really happy that I got the chance to play on the same line with him. I’ll do whatever it takes to stick with him as long as I can.”

–Field Level Media

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