The best shot in Avalanche history? Matt Duchene said Joe Sakic has company.
Duchene joined the Avs when then-captain Sakic was retiring from the team, but the 22-year-old said Milan Hejduk has "the best shot I've ever seen."
"Wrist shot, snap shot, accuracy," Duchene said of Hejduk's right-handed shot. "As good as Joe was, I think Hejdie is right there."
Hejduk, 36, is beginning what could be his final season in the NHL. He signed his third consecutive one-year contract last summer, the latest at a relatively low $2 million, after scoring only 14 goals last season, his lowest goal total since his 1998-99 rookie season.
He played in 81-of-82 games last season, serving as a healthy scratch in the game he missed. Hejduk is not fitted for a fourth-line role, and if he doesn't produce offensively, he realizes he is a candidate to watch games in a suit and tie.
"It could happen, obviously. I'm in that stage of my career," he said after the fourth day of the Avs' abbreviated training camp Wednesday. "Anything is possible, but I'll try to work hard, however the coaches want to use me. I'm fine with it."
Hejduk will begin the season in Saturday's opener at Minnesota playing right wing on a line with newcomer John Mitchell, a center, and Steve Downie. Hejduk is playing along the left wall/point on the power play, with defenseman Erik Johnson and forwards Paul Stastny, David Jones and Jamie McGinn.
"I'm pretty happy right now — on the third line and seeing some power-play time," Hejduk said. "I'm definitely not asking to play 20 minutes a game, with a guy my age around a bunch of young guys who can really skate well and are really fit. I'm pretty happy where things are."
His goals for the year are similar to those of his two young sons, who play hockey in the southern suburbs.
"I want to stay healthy. I want to have fun. I want to win hockey games and I want to make the playoffs," Hejduk said. "It's a short season for me. I want to really enjoy it because this could be it, or not. We'll see how it goes."
Duchene, who celebrated his 22nd birthday Wednesday, said Hejduk is like a big brother to him and other young Avs, and is playing at a high level after the offseason and four-month lockout. Hejduk turns 37 on Feb. 14.
"I don't think we'll be scratching him. I think he'll be traveling north in the lineup rather than south," Duchene said. "He's a guy, since I joined this team, that has been one of my best friends even though there's a big gap in our age. He's given me a lot of advice and I can't say enough of him.
"I keep telling him he's got three more years in him, so he can play until he's 40. Talent like that doesn't come around very often."
Hejduk has 371 goals in his NHL career and has reached 20 in 11 of his 13 seasons. Avs coach Joe Sacco can use Hejduk's experience and scoring touch on his young team.
"I think he's on a very good line right now, with Downie and Mitchell, and he's going to get every opportunity — a good line, the power play," Sacco said. "His play will dictate whether or not he's in or out of the lineup. I don't have time to wait for people this year. That message was made clear to our players. With the condensed schedule, there is no time to wait. Milan is no different. I have high hopes for Milan. I think it's going to be a positive season for him. And I think the time off will benefit him."
Hejduk sees a positive in the 48-game schedule.
"There's light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "The schedule is going to be hard, with not so much rest between games, but you can see the finish line to the end of the regular season. It might benefit me."