Not since April 7 last year has a minute of Avalanche hockey been played. It was going to be a long offseason as it was, what with Colorado finishing 11th in the NHL's Western Conference, three spots down from the playoff cutoff mark of eight teams.

Add a 119-day NHL lockout, and you have a seriously long wait between games for Avs players. Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., however, the puck will drop again in a game between the Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. Colorado's first of 48 regular-season games gets underway, on "State of Hockey Day" in Minnesota.

"I'm 29 years old and I've never been so excited for a first game," said winger P.A Parenteau, who signed a four-year, $18 million free-agent contract with Colorado over the summer. "It's been nine months, almost, since we've played a hockey game. We did our best this week to get our legs under us and get into game shape, and I think we're almost there. I think everyone's excited."

Other than the additions of Parenteau and role players John Mitchell and Greg Zanon, the Avalanche returns mostly unchanged from the group that finished 11th in the Western Conference last season with 88 points. The Avs likely will be without their leading scorer from last season, center Ryan O'Reilly, who has not come to terms on a new contract with the team.

The Avalanche might be excited about playing again, but should the fans be? The Avs have made the playoffs only once in the past four seasons, and the one time they made it (2009), they finished eighth.