The Colorado Avalanche huddled in the dark hallway between their dressing room and the ice. It was a few hours before game time, and the team had a brief warm-up practice scheduled.
As the group of young men talked and stretched, the team's head coach, Joe Sacco, entered the hall. The man had dark circles under his bloodshot eyes and his face was pale and sweating. He stood silently and raised his trembling hand into the air to get the players' attention.
"What's the matter, coach?" a player asked nervously.
"I'm sorry boys, I'm so sorry....but HE is here."
A nervous gasp came from several of the players in unison. A recently-called-up rookie broke the tense silence that followed.
"Coach, what are you talking about? Who is 'HE'?"
"Gather close, everybody," Sacco said in a low voice, "You all need to hear this, to remind you exactly how much danger you're in."
The team leaned in, none of them making a sound.
"It all started during last year's playoffs," the coach said. "It was so calm and peaceful at first: we got a win, Anderson was playing well...and then HE arrived.
"He cut through us like a chainsaw through a stick of butter, boys. Eight points in six playoff games, game-winning goals...he was a born Avs-killer. We just couldn't stop him. He was a one-man army, Armageddon made flesh, and in the end he left us with nothing but our eyes for weeping.
"The Big Pavelski, the Death of the Avalanche."
Saying the name of the sinister figure caused several men to shriek aloud, and Matt Duchene wet his pants. The coach pressed a fist to his forehead, struggling to go on.
"We thought it was over, after the playoffs. What fools we were.
"We hoped and prayed that maybe, after he tore out our hearts and feasted on them while they were still beating, perhaps his blood-lust would be sated. But no. Not even close.
"That terrible beast came after us again much more recently. In fact, he was in this very arena only a month ago."
The players shivered and huddled together more closely. Beyond the usual cold of the arena there was another, deeper chill in the air. Somewhere, a wolf howled.
"This place was a river of blood when he came to town. Two goals, stabbed deep into our gut. Entrails were everywhere. It was brutal.
"They say he was a normal man, once, but I'm not sure I believe it. I look into his eyes now, and it makes me sick to think there could be anything human in there anymore. He's a monster - a heartless, coldblooded bastard. He hates the Avalanche and the city of Denver and he won't rest until he's killed every one of us."
The coach sighed heavily and stared down at the ice. For a long time there was no sound save the high-pitched grinding of the equipment team sharpening skates. Finally the coach shook his head and lifted his gaze, looking at each player in turn. Tears filled his eyes, as if he never expected to see any of the players alive again.
"Good luck tonight boys," he said with a choke of fear, "You're going to need it. And may God have mercy on you, because HE sure as hell won't."
He walked away, down the hall. Wordlessly the doomed players turned back to the ice. They began to march forward slowly, no one wanting to be the one leading the way.
"He's just kidding, right?" the young rookie asked with nervous laughter, "I mean, there's no such thing as The Big Pavelski, is there?"
A piercing shriek came from behind the Avalanche players. They whirled around and beheld a terrible sight. The horror was beyond description, and several of the men went mad from the shock of it. Their coach was there, lying on the floor, screaming in pure, primal fear:
"My God, it's too late - he's already here!"
Prediction: Joe Pavelski scores five goals. The Sharks win 5-2.