Avalanche look to stay hot; Hamonic boosts Islanders

Monday, 01.25.2016 / 9:24 AM
Brian Compton  - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Semyon Varlamov and the Colorado Avalanche are making a push for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Varlamov has allowed one goal in each of his past four games, all victories. He and the Avalanche will go for their fifth straight win when Colorado visits the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1, SNE, SNO, SNW).

Colorado (26-21-3) enters this week in possession of the first wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference.

"For me, very important when I see the pucks," Varlamov told the Avalanche website. "I think for every goalie that plays in the NHL, it's really hard to find the puck in this League because the forwards, they all try to screen you. They all do a great job in that. So for me and for my defensemen, we talk about that. If the 'D' is shooting from the blue line, I have to see the puck. We've been working a lot on that, and I think the guys are doing a great job."

Here are other games that should garner plenty of attention:

Monday, Jan. 25: Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars (8:30 p.m. ET; SNW, FS-SW) -- The Flames wrap up a five-game road trip at American Airlines Center; they are 1-2-1 thus far. Calgary captain Mark Giordano enters with a three-game point streak. Dallas finishes a three-game homestand and plays its final game before the All-Star break.

Tuesday, Jan. 26: New Jersey Devils at Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, ROOT) -- New Jersey continues to prove it is no fluke; the Devils are seeking their fifth consecutive win and enter this week one point behind the New York Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh has won back-to-back games and is 13-7-4 at home.

Wednesday, Jan. 27: Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN) -- Washington is 7-2-1 in its past 10 games and has built a 16-point lead atop the Metropolitan Division and a 12-point cushion in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers enter this week in seventh place in the Metropolitan, four points behind the sixth-place Carolina Hurricanes.

Sunday, Jan. 31: 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports) -- A 3-on-3 tournament pitting the four divisions against one another in a winner-take-all format. The Atlantic Division will face the Metropolitan Division in one semifinal and the Central Division will face the Pacific Division in the other semifinal. The winners play in the championship game. Games will be 20 minutes in length and will be decided by a shootout if tied after the 20 minutes.


Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders -- The Islanders' defensive depth has been tested this month with injuries to Hamonic (foot) and Johnny Boychuk (upper body). But Hamonic didn't miss a beat in his return last Friday, when he led New York with 22:29 of ice time and scored the go-ahead goal in a 5-2 win at the Ottawa Senators.

"It was just four games, but it felt longer than that," Hamonic told Newsday. "You always want to come in and compete, be out there with your teammates. Watching your team win, you want to be out there really bad."

Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils -- Palmieri, who scored 28 goals over the past two seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, had two goals and an assist in New Jersey's 6-3 win against Ottawa on Thursday. He has 20 goals in 49 games this season.

"It's the first time I've ever hit it in my career, so I'm pretty happy about that," Palmieri said of scoring 20 goals in a season. "Hopefully that's not it, though."

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks -- Thornton had an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings at SAP Center on Sunday. The 36-year-old center has a nine-game point streak (two goals, 10 assists) and is thriving between Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski.

"I feel good," Thornton said. "Our line's been really clicking. Ever since Tomas got with our line, I think he added a little extra boost to us. But [Pavelski's] been playing real good, Tomas has been playing real good, and we're just working hard for one another. That's very important for success."


Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings -- After going 10 straight games without a point, Brown ended the drought Saturday with his first goal since Dec. 29 after being placed on a line with center Jeff Carter and left wing Dwight King.

"It was good to see [Brown] score, and we got a goal from the [Nick] Shore line and the Carter line, which was something we haven't had lately," Kings coach Darryl Sutter told LA Kings Insider after a 3-2 loss at the Arizona Coyotes.

Carl Hagelin, Pittsburgh Penguins -- The trade from Anaheim to Pittsburgh has been a boon for Hagelin, who has three assists in four games with his new team. Hagelin finds himself on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.

Malkin got his 10th NHL hat trick in a 5-4 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday; Hagelin had an assist to extend his point streak to three games.

"Oh, it's just exciting," Hagelin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "You have a first-row seat to see one of the best players in the League do what he can do best. He was making a lot of great plays. He's not a selfish player, but he still scores three goals. It's pretty, pretty amazing."

Mike Ribeiro, Nashville Predators -- With one goal in his past 15 games, Ribeiro, a natural center, was moved to left wing on the top line with center Ryan Johansen and right wing James Neal prior to the game against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. The three did not have a point in Nashville's 4-1 victory.

"We're just trying things," Predators coach Peter Laviolette told The Tennessean. "We're just trying to keep a balance in the lineup."


St. Louis Blues captain David Backes can become an unrestricted free agent July 1 but don't expect general manager Doug Armstrong to move him prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29. "I guess you could always see it playing out any way," Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The least likely scenario would be to trade him because we're trying to win. A first-round pick does us no good when we're going to this year's playoffs. I think we're going to be a good team, and he's a big part of being a good team. He's our captain, he's our leader. We've had the most points in the NHL over the last five or six years. I mean, he's doing something right. If we didn't want to keep him, we wouldn't have talked to him in the first place. We've got now until March to find out where we're at." … Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford got his NHL-leading seventh shutout of the season in a 2-0 win against St. Louis on Sunday. … The Montreal Canadiens ended a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 shootout win at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Montreal had an 11-point lead atop the Atlantic Division on Dec. 2; it is now tied for fifth, nine points behind the first-place Florida Panthers. … Edmonton center Connor McDavid has been cleared for full contact and will practice with Bakersfield of the American Hockey League during the NHL All-Star break. He hopes to return Feb. 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. "It [stinks] being out," McDavid told the Oilers website. "It feels like a long time. These last couple of weeks have been probably the longest. When you feel so good you want to play, but I'm being patient with it. Hopefully, the patience is rewarded at the end."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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