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Berra On Conditioning Stint In AHL

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

News and notes from Colorado Avalanche practice.

Colorado Avalanche netminder Reto Berra is one step closer to returning to the lineup.

The 29-year-old Swiss goalie was activated from injured reserve and sent to the San Antonio Rampage for a two-week conditioning stint, the team announced on Thursday.

"He got cleared last night. He needs to play and get his conditioning up,” Avs executive vice president/general manager Joe Sakic said. “He's going to go down for two weeks to work on his game and then come back up.”

Berra, who has been out of the lineup since Dec. 27 with an ankle injury, is no stranger to this process as he went through it last season. He even scored a goal during his time with the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL last year.

His healthy return provides Colorado with three options in net, as Berra joins clear starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov and 23-year-old Calvin Pickard as protectors of the cage.

“Calvin has played great as well, so we'll see how that plays out,” said Sakic. “That is a strong part of our organization, we’ve got good depth in net.”

Avs head coach Patrick Roy doesn’t see any issue with the club having three healthy keepers on the roster if need be.

"We certainly could [keep three]. We'll see how it goes,” Roy said. “Right now, the focus should not be on our goaltenders because we know which one is our No. 1. That's A, and B, we want to make the playoffs. Our focus is more on that than who is going be back, who is going to be the backup, who is going to do this. Right now, it is not very important to me.”

The Avs are playing in back-to-back games in Western Canada this weekend, taking on the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday and the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday. Roy already has his goalie rotation scheduled.

“Picks is going to play against Edmonton next game. Varly will play in Vancouver,” Roy said. “What's important is Picks has been playing really well for us. He's going to have his chance to play against Edmonton."

Thursday’s on-ice session at Family Sports Center featured a grueling 45-minute practice that included work on breakouts, neutral-zone play and offensive-zone entries. It concluded with a rotating 2-on-2 battle drill that featured two players from each set joining the rush at full speed at the opposite end of the ice.

Some players have noted that this is a skating drill disguised as a full-throttle battle of skill and pride, although most agree that it is better than mountains.

The Avalanche also announced Thursday morning that defenseman Nate Guenin was reassigned to the Rampage. The move was made in order to free up space for Berra, who is still active on Colorado’s 23-man roster while he fulfills his conditioning stint.

Guenin will have an opportunity to get back into game action while in the AHL.

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