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Avs Hitting Road With Pickard-Martin Tandem

by Ryan Boulding @rboulding /

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--The All-Star break is over and the Colorado Avalanche got in a practice ahead of Tuesday's matchup at the Anaheim Ducks, but the composition of the club is different following Thursday's news that netminder Semyon Varlamov is done for the season following hip surgery to repair his injured groin.

"We know he's done for the season. We're looking forward to getting a healthy Varly for next year," head coach Jared Bednar said following Monday's skate. "We need him to take care of that problem so he can get back in the net and find some consistency to his game.

"We'll see how that goes over the course of the rest of the season and summertime, and then hopefully he gets a jump start on his training."

The club will move forward with a goaltending tandem of Calvin Pickard and Spencer Martin, starting with Pickard between the pipes on Tuesday.

Video: Coach Bednar's update on Avs after All-Star break

"For us now, we're getting an opportunity to look at Spencer Martin, who's played real well in the American League," said Bednar. "He's come up here and done a nice job in one of his games that he was up here playing. Picks is going to play more games than he ever has before in his career at this level, and it's going to be a good learning curve for both those guys. [We'll] see how they play and how they're able to work through the situation."

The chance to spend significant time with the NHL club that chose him 63rd overall at the 2013 Draft is both a blessing and a challenge to the 21-year-old from Oakville, Ontario.

"It's obviously an exciting opportunity, but at the same time I'm not trying to get too far ahead and take anything for granted," Martin admitted. "I want to make sure that day-to-day, I work hard to earn it rather than just say I'm going to be here all year.

"Varly is out for the season, so there's obviously going to be a window open for me to show that I can stick around, but I'm not looking too far ahead rather than just focusing on this road trip and trying to show that I can play at this level. Then [I'll] go from there."

Martin spent last offseason preparing for a campaign in the AHL, and the work put in has certainly paid off.

Video: Spencer Martin on seeing more NHL time

"To be honest, my focus this year was making sure I solidified myself in the American League because last year I played some time in the East Coast," he said. "So I wanted to make sure that I proved that I was capable of playing in the AHL. I had a successful start, so that's bought me the opportunity here. So it's been really good."

For Pickard, nothing changes mentally. The 24-year-old keeper knows that being the go-to guy is different than being the backup, but he has to prepare himself the same way he always has.

"I can't put added pressure on myself," Pickard said. "I just got to go out like I have been the first couple months of the year, when I was playing every third or fourth game. I have to have that mindset of just going out there and doing my job and not putting too much pressure on myself."

The team will get a boost as defenseman Tyson Barrie and forward Rene Bourque are both expected to return from lower-body injuries. The players participated in their first full practice since being sidelined, and Bednar said he is planning on using them against the Ducks.

"As far as I know, they're both good. They were both full contact today," he said. "Didn't seem to be any problems, so unless something pops here or on the plane or before tomorrow morning, I'm assuming they're both going to be ready to go."

"They're two huge parts of the team," said Pickard. "Bourqie is great up front. He's provided a lot of scoring touch for us this year, and Tyson is great back there, offensively and defensively. Good on the power play. So it's going to be nice to have him back."

Barrie, who missed the previous four games, is certainly itching to get back in action.

Video: Tyson Barrie returns to practice

"I feel good. Those extra couple days were good," he said of resting during the All-Star stoppage. "They gave me a chance to heal up and heal properly, so I'm excited to be back out there with the guys. I'm looking forward to getting back.

"I'm more than ready to get back in there and try and help these guys out."

Avalanche blueliner Erik Johnson was also on the ice Monday, skating for the first time since suffering a broken leg on Dec. 6 in a contest against the Dallas Stars. The vibrant, orange non-contact jersey he wore as he skated alone before practice served as a clear reminder that Johnson isn't ready to return, but his presence is a step in the right direction.

"That's his first time on the ice, so we'll see how he reacts to that," Bednar said. "He's been working hard in the gym for quite some time. Got on the slide board last week, and now he's hitting the ice. So things [are] trending in a positive fashion there. I'd like to see him get back, but I have no timeline on that exactly."

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