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Avs Return From Holiday Break

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

News and notes from Colorado Avalanche practice.

The time for Sugar Plum Fairies, mistletoe, eggnog and cookies has passed, and it’s back to work for the Colorado Avalanche.

While four days spent away from the rink and with family have given the Avs a chance to recharge, the focus during Saturday’s session at Family Sports Center was preparing for Sunday evening’s contest against the visiting Arizona Coyotes.

“It felt good to be back out there. Obviously, any time you go three or four days without skating you definitely feel it by the time you get back,” captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “It takes you a few drills to get back into things, but it felt good to be back. I know everybody had a good break and got some quality time with their families, some good food and rest and relaxed and are now ready to get back at it.”

Landeskog admitted that he did get in one day in skates, albeit in a more leisurely capacity.

“Had some family in town. Had my dad and my sister in town, and we just kind of hung out,” he said of his holiday hiatus. “We went up to Evergreen the one day and skated up there, but other than that just quality time with the family and good meals.”

The practice was fast and furious and full of hard work; exactly the type of effort that head coach Patrick Roy wanted from his squad.

“Not bad. I liked the intensity of the practice,” said Roy. “They seemed rusty a bit at the start, but we had a good-tempo practice, lot of passing, lot of shooting. That’s what we wanted, not much about the structure, more about getting the legs going.”

The Avalanche faces Arizona Sunday before shipping off to play the San Jose Sharks on Monday, and the club is looking to continue it’s strong December play in both contests.

“Starts with the game tomorrow and making sure that we come back and we play well,” Landeskog said. “And after that, we continue our strong play on the road in San Jose. It’s just one game at a time and making sure we focus on this first one against the Coyotes.”

One new, yet familiar, face between the pipes on Saturday was that of netminder Calvin Pickard, who was recalled from the San Antonio Rampage on Christmas Day in order to support the team while Reto Berra is sidelined roughly 10 days with an ankle injury.

Thrilled about getting the nod to join the Avs, Pickard said traveling on the holiday wasn’t an issue.

“Definitely not, it was exciting,” he admitted. “I had three days at home in Winnipeg, and that was nice visiting with some family and friends. It’s time to get back to business.

“I’m here now, and I got a good practice today.”

After the skate, Roy revealed that goalie Semyon Varlamov would get the start against the Coyotes and that Pickard is scheduled to start in San Jose.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time, and if I get called upon I’m just going to do my thing and prepare as I do for any other game,” Pickard said. “Looking forward to it, for sure.

“I’m excited to be back.”

Roy also offered some insight on line pairings that were noticeable on Saturday, and which were seen a bit in Monday’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In an effort to spark more production from the players, Roy said he’ll be shuffling his top line of Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene as well as his second trio of Alex Tanguay, John Mitchell and Jarome Iginla.

“We’re going to put Mitchell in the middle of Landeskog and Duchene, and I’m going to put MacKinnon in the center of Tanguay and Iginla,” he said. “We need to get some scoring from our top line. I thought it was good at some point to do that, in the way that [opponents] had to match up their top pairing against our top line. It opened up. The second and third and fourth line started scoring more, but now it’s our first line that doesn’t score as much. We’re going to try to give them a chance to play different pairings.”

Those aren’t the only lineup changes in store for Sunday. Roy also announced that Nate Guenin, who is fine after leaving Monday’s game with a head injury, will sit in favor of Brandon Gormley.

“I’ll play Gormley tomorrow with [Zach] Redmond, and then we’ll see how it goes for the next game,” said Roy.

The Avs are entering a crucial stretch of the season that features 15 games (nine at home) in 28 days spanning Dec. 31 to Jan. 27, when the All-Star Break begins. Colorado will play every other day for 23 of those days and concludes the stretch with a back-to-back set at home against the St. Louis Blues and at the Dallas Stars in Texas.

For fans looking to get into the 2016 World Junior Championship, Avalanche prospects Mikko Rantanen (Finland) and Sergei Boikov (Russia) are both playing for their respective nations at the tournament.

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