ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It's only the first day of training camp, but the intensity is already palpable for the Colorado Avalanche.
The group is looking to put the playoff disappointment from last season behind them, and play toward its true potential.
"There's a lot for us to still learn and get better at, bottom line. We're not going into camp thinking about what we're going to do in round two in the spring, we're thinking about building and building and getting better and working every day," Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog said.
And round two was where it all fell apart. The Avalanche took a 2-0 lead on the Vegas Golden Knights before dropping four straight and watching its season end.
"I just feel like we're growing and growing and learning how to play playoff hockey. Some guys are lucky to win their first years, but it's going to be a process. We're learning a lot, which is great and we're excited about that. When we face these new challenges, we're going to be ready for them, for sure," Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon said.
They'll head into those new challenges with a new face between the pipes, after trading for All-Star goalie Darcy Kuemper this offseason.
"We've seen a lot of him and he's tough to score on him. He's a big guy. What's nice about big goalies is, when they're a little off, pucks just hit them. They don't need to be on all of the time to be effective. He's a huge guy and a great personality, a great attitude, and we're really pumped to have him," Mackinnon said.
Kuemper, 31, has played nine seasons in the NHL with Minnesota, Los Angeles and most recently Arizona. He has a career record of 106-83-32. Last year with the Coyotes Kuemper went 10-11-3 in 24 starts.
"There's a lot of talent on this team and it really pushes you to be your best every day. I think it's going to help me be a better goalie facing these guys on a daily basis and I'm looking forward to when we get into games, having them on my side," Kuemper said.