After returning from the All-Star Break with a 2-1 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Avs went back to work on Wednesday to prepare for Thursday’s Central-Division game against the Dallas Stars.
With the Avalanche currently in the first wild-card spot with 57 points through 53 contests, every possible point in the next 29 games matters in the competitive Western Conference playoff race.
Last time the two teams met, Colorado defeated the Stars 3-1 with short-handed goals from Carl Soderberg and Gabriel Landeskog. Netminder Semyon Varlamov made 42 saves in the victory to help Colorado improve to 2-0-0 against Dallas this campaign.
Varlamov participated in Wednesday practice after being absent from the lineup since that start. He also skated for a bit on Monday.
“It’s nice to be back, I am really excited,” said the 27-year-old goaltender. “I am very happy to be back and start practicing with the boys again. I am looking forward to playing this week.”
The Samara, Russia, native will not be starting between the pipes on Thursday but will be available in a back-up capacity for Calvin Pickard.
“I need to get back in shape because I didn’t skate that much the past couple days,” Varlamov said. “Actually, there were like eight days I didn’t skate. I need to have a couple good practices before I start to play again.”
Head coach Patrick Roy said that Pickard would be in the crease tomorrow to give the Russian goalie some more time to get back in game shape.
“[Varlamov] hasn’t done much in the past 10 days,” said Roy. “It will be good for him to start skating and practicing, and tomorrow he is going to have another good day and the day after and should be ready to play against Winnipeg (on Saturday).”
After practice, Varlamov spoke about his gratitude to the Avalanche organization for the support he received.
“I want to say thanks to our organization,” acknowledged Varlamov. “They have been very supportive and all my teammates they have been very supportive the last three years. I want to say thanks to my teammates and to Patrick, he has been very supportive too.”
Roy said Varlamov is ready to return his attention to winning hockey games and helping the team make the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I think the entire organization was behind him from the get go,” remarked Roy. “Today we are just going to refocus on hockey, and I think that’s what everybody wants.”
His teammates are also ready for Varlamov to be back on the ice with them as the team looks toward a postseason spot.
“Picks did a great job stepping in, but it’s always good to get your starting goalie back,” defenseman Erik Johnson said after practice on Wednesday. “We have a lot of confidence in him, he has won a lot of games for us, and I am sure he is happy with the way that it played out and now he can just get back to playing hockey.
“It’s business as usual, and it’s good to get our No. 1 goalie back”
Roy said forward Andreas Martinsen would return to the lineup against the Stars after being a healthy scratch last game. Chris Wagner will be scratched on Thursday.
The Colorado coach also reported that he would know more in the next few days about a return for goaltender Reto Berra, who has been out since Dec. 21 with an ankle injury.
“It seems to me that it’s a bit up and down, and it’s not going as quick as he would like to,” said Roy. “We will know more in the next few days.”
In other netminder news, Roman Will was reassigned to the San Antonio Rampage after being a late call-up and backing up Pickard in Tuesday’s game. He made his NHL debut on Jan. 26 at San Jose and supported Pickard during Varlamov’s absence the past three contests.