DENVER -- Semyon Varlamov will start in goal Friday when the Colorado Avalanche face the Phoenix Coyotes at Pepsi Center, his first appearance since playing three games for Russia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Varlamov last played in an NHL game Feb. 6 when he stopped 32 shots in a 3-1 road loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. He lost his last two decisions before the Olympic break but has set a career high for wins in a season with 28 and has been the Avalanche's most valuable player.
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said he expects Varlamov to return to form after failing to win an Olympic medal for the host country.
"[Varlamov] is a great person and he wants to do well," Roy said. "I have no doubt in my mind that he's not happy about the way that he played and he's going to look at himself in the mirror. I think that's what makes a career. It's not always perfect. That's the way it was for me, anyway, and I think it's going to make him a better hockey player. It's going to help him approach how he's going to play until the end of the year and the playoffs. It's always how you bounce back."
The Avalanche have lost three of their past four games and need to bounce back after turning a 4-2 lead into a 6-4 loss Wednesday against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Coyotes, who didn't skate Friday morning, will complete a two-game road trip after losing 3-2 in a shootout to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. They are ninth in the Western Conference with 65 points, one behind the Dallas Stars in a heated race for the final wild-card spot.
Thomas Greiss is expected to start in goal for the Coyotes after Mike Smith played Thursday. In his career Greiss is 4-0-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average and .963 save percentage against the Avalanche. He made 29 saves Dec. 10 in the Coyotes' 3-1 win against the Avalanche at Pepsi Center.
"We have to get on these guys early," Avalanche left wing Ryan O'Reilly said. "We know we need to be better after last game. We had energy and we competed, but we have to be better defensively. We can't give up that many goals. We have to play good hockey if we want to get into the playoffs."
Avalanche left wing Maxime Talbot will return to the lineup after missing the game Wednesday to be with his fiancée, Cynthia Phaneuf, who gave birth to the couple's first child, a boy, Jaxson, early Thursday morning.
Here are the projected lineups for the Avalanche and Coyotes:
Scratched: Ryan Wilson
Suspended: Erik Johnson