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September 27, 2011 | 11:57pm ET
Avs gearing up for new season
By Ryan Boulding, Colorado Correspondent

DENVER, CO -- It's nine a.m. and the cold air at Family Sports Center in Englewood, Colorado is electric, buzzing with excitement.

There is chatter here and there, but worried anticipation keeps the sound to a minimum. Fans wrapped in blankets, coats, and jerseys hang on the edge of their seats, wondering what is in store. Then, the Colorado Avalanche takes the ice.

It's safe to say that many around the NHL have no idea what to expect from the Avalanche season, much in the same way that fans weren't sure what they would glimpse at training camp; the same pushover team from before or something new and competitive.

The first shift out, forward Cody McLeod made it known what fans could expect this coming year. With a few powerful strides, the man in black hammered his opponent into the boards, sending shockwaves down the line. As the crushing sound of constant checking shook spectators to the bone, it was certain: Colorado would be tougher.

The Avalanche went through quite the overhaul at the backend of the ice, acquiring 237-pound defenseman Jan Hejda and 230-pound blueliner Shane O'Brien in an effort to make the Avs harder to play against in the defensive zone. They join Erik Johnson (232-pounds), Kyle Quincey (207-pounds) and Ryan Wilson (207-pounds) in making the area around the net just a little more punishing.

This new-look defensive corps, which could still see an addition or two, is there to support the refreshed goaltending tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Avs head Coach Joe Sacco recently mentioned that the stronger, tougher defensemen would serve to clear out the area in front of the net, allowing Varlamov and Giguere the opportunity to see and stop the first shot. They would also make it a lot more grueling to move the puck around down low.

Add to this a few new faces to the goal-scoring unit, including the determinedly hard-hitting and fantastically gifted second overall draft pick, Gabriel Landeskog and you start to see the freight-train like big picture in Colorado.

Landeskog led the team with seven hits in his first preseason game and you can expect him to keep bringing the energy night after night.

The times they are a changing in Colorado and it should come as no surprise that weakness have been shored up with a pretty busy off-season. Many have been predicting the Avs to finish in the bottom again, but this team will be even more of a surprise than the 2009-10 team that snuck into the playoffs after shocking everyone with their game.

Don't write off Colorado as they are a mean, junkyard dog looking for revenge against a league that tarnished their good reputation. There will be blood and there will be wins.

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