Eyes on Cup and cap­taincy

All-star Duch­ene wants to add ma­jor pieces to “good parts ofmy ca­reer”

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Cham­bers

Matt Duch­ene is now a two-time NHL all-star with two gold medals in in­ter­na­tional play. He is on pace to shat­ter his ca­reer-high 27 goals and lead the Avalanche into the play­offs. The right wing is a star.

Com­pared with some of his bud­dies in Nashville, Tenn., this week­end, how­ever, Duch­ene ad­mit­tedly has a long way to go be­cause he hasn’t come close to win­ning the Stan­ley Cup.

“There’s a lot of good parts of my ca­reer that I’m very proud of, but there’s a big part miss­ing — a push for a Stan­ley Cup, and a Stan­ley Cup, ob­vi­ously,” Duch­ene, who leads Colorado with 23 goals and 42 points, said be­fore de­part­ing for Mu­sic City as the team’s lone all-star. “The nice part is I’ve got a lot of years left. But at the same time, I’m liv­ing in the now more than ever be­cause I want to make ev­ery se­cond count. You have to put the ef­fort in ev­ery day and take ad­van­tage of the time you have.”

Duch­ene, 25, has yet to see the se­cond round of the play­offs and has only ad­vanced to the post­sea­son twice in six sea­sons. He’s big into leav­ing his mark on the game, cre­at­ing a legacy. But all-star ap­pear­ances and gold medals don’t ad­e­quately do that. It’s all about the Cup.

“That’s some­thing I think about a lot,” Duch­ene said. “I think aboutwhat I’m go­ing to leave be­hind when I’m gone from the game. I’ve had to make it mean a lit­tle less to me be­cause I wouldn’t stay in the mo­ment as much as I should and look too far ahead. I would panic when things weren’t go­ing well and wor­ried too much about 15 or 20 years down the road rather than the next game.”

In Nashville, he is a Cen­tral Divi­sion team­mate with for­ward Pa­trick Kane of the Black­hawks, a three-time-Cup cham­pion, in the three-on-three for­mat. Duch­ene and Kane will op­pose Kings de­fense­man Drew Doughty, who has won the Cup twice.

Duch­ene and Doughty were team­mates for gold medal-win­ning Canada at the 2014 Olympics. Duch­ene says he is en­vi­ous around Kane and Doughty.

“It’s not en­vi­ous in a bad­way. It’s healthy. It’s a healthy en­vi­ous, a healthy look at what it takes,” Duch­ene said. “Not one of those guys won the Cup by them­selves. It was a group that did it.”

The Avalanche (27-22-3) is cur­rently in a wild-card play­off po­si­tion, al­though it has played more games than 11 of the other 13 teams in the Western Con­fer­ence. The Avs have 30 re­main­ing games.

“Hope­fully, we’re able to get in. We’re in a good spot right now,” Duch­ene said. “Hope­fully, we can hold where we are and I can get past the first round of the play­offs with this team I’ve been with for seven years, and a team I want to win a Cup with very badly. It’s driv­ing me ev­ery day.”

Duch­ene is a big leader for the Avs. But not as big as he would like. He would like a let­ter on his chest. Cap­tain Gabe Lan­deskog’s al­ter­nate cap­tains are vet­eran power for­ward Jarome Iginla and vet­eran fourth-line wing Cody McLeod.

“He’s a leader on the ice, there’s no doubt about it,” Avs coach Pa­trick Roy said of Duch­ene. “I think he’s learn­ing, com­ing in and per­form­ing, and that’s what he’s been do­ing this last stretch.” Duch­ene still seeks a let­ter. “The guys that are wear­ing it for us are do­ing a great job,” Duch­ene said. “It’s not some­thing I think about much. It’s some­thing I did think about be­fore, and there are rea­sons ear­lier in my ca­reer why it didn’t hap­pen. It was a ma­tur­ing process, me learn­ing how to deal with my own stuff — deal­ing with stuff with the team and keep my edge but still be a good team­mate.

“I’m pretty re­al­is­tic about my strengths andweak­nesses. To sum it up, it­would be a huge honor and it’s a goal of mine. But it’s not some­thing I’m dwelling on.”

Matt Duch­ene talks to the me­dia gath­ered in Nashville, Tenn., on Fri­day prior to the All-Star Game.

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