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At the Rink blog

Varlamov starts, Quincey, Kobasew back for Colorado

Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 4:46 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent / At the Rink blog

DENVER -- Defenseman Kyle Quincey, left wing Chuck Kobasew and goalie Semyon Varlamov will be back in the Colorado Avalanche lineup for tonight's game against the Phoenix Coyotes at the Pepsi Center.

Quincey, the Avalanche's top-scoring defenseman with 3 goals and 14 assists in 32 games, was a healthy scratch for the previous four games after missing two with a groin injury. Kobasew has missed eight games with a head injury and Varlamov's only appearance in the previous six games came in Monday’s 4-2 win in Minnesota.

Quincey was replaced by Matt Hunwick after getting hurt Dec. 15 in San Jose and remained out of the lineup because coach Joe Sacco didn't want to make changes during a five-game winning streak that ended Tuesday with a 4-1 loss to Winnipeg.

Quincey will replace Hunwick as rookie Stefan Elliott's partner, and Kobasew will replace rookie Brad Malone on the third line with Jay McClement and TJ Galiardi.

"It was extremely frustrating (not to play), but I tried to look at the positives," Quincey said after this morning's skate. "It was a good time to get your legs back and fresh. It's almost at the halfway point (of the season) and I feel like I'm starting over again. It was like a little mini-training camp for me. I got back in the gym and had 10 great workouts. I'm fresh. I feel like it's my first game of the year again. It's a long season, a grind, and I guess I was fortunate to have a little vacation there."

Quincey didn't feel quite the same as last season when he missed the final 55 games to recover from a shoulder injury that required surgery. The Avalanche only won six of the last 36 games and finished 29th in the NHL standings.

"I can go back to last year and how (bad) the feeling was," he said. "The biggest thing was not being able to help the team when they needed it the most. I don't want to say it seemed like they didn't need me (this time), but we were winning and everything was good around here. The boys were happy and it wasn't anything like last year, when it was pretty depressing."

The Avalanche won eight home games in a row before Tuesday's loss and have won five of their past six games overall and six of eight to climb back into the Western Conference playoff race.

Tonight's game is especially important because the Avalanche open a four-game road trip on New Year's Eve in Anaheim and will play nine of 12 games in January on the road.

"We need to regroup," Sacco said. "We talked about a month ago about our team improving our home record, and certainly that's something that we did. This is a big game against a conference opponent. A team that plays a style that Phoenix does, you want to make sure you start the game on time and it's always nice to get a lead and give yourself a better chance to win. They play a very structured game and we have to be diligent with the puck and when we get our opportunities to make sure we get second and third efforts on the net."

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery