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Holden To Play Forward Against Blues

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Nick Holden will return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup tonight after a four-game absence, and he will do it at a position he is becoming more familiar with.

A defenseman by trade Holden will begin Colorado's contest at the St. Louis Blues as a fourth line forward with center Marc-Andre Cliche and left wing Cody McLeod. He has already played as a forward several times this season, including in his last contest on Dec. 18 at Pittsburgh.

Tonight will be the third time in the last 17 days the Avs have faced the Blues. Colorado is 4-1-2 in its last seven contests.

Nick Holden

"I'm going to do whatever they want me to do," Holden said Sunday before the team flight to Missouri. "Obviously, we want to win games right now and that's all that matters."

Holden played his first game with the Avalanche last season as a forward before moving to his regular spot on the blue line for the remainder the year. The rear guard sports strong offensive ability as he tallied 10 goals and 25 points in 54 games in 2013-14.

He has seen action as a forward in five of his last six contests before becoming a healthy scratch.

"The biggest adjustment for me going to forward is picking up passes from the 'D' where you're skating backwards and then you got to know where you're going to be making a play," Holden said. "As a D-man, everything is in front of you all the time."

The Avalanche reassigned forward Dennis Everberg and goaltender Calvin Pickard to Lake Erie on Sunday, leaving the Avs with an active roster of just 20 players for this evening's 6 p.m. MT game at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Head coach Patrick Roy said the team wasn't planning on calling up any additional players for the contest against the Blues and that Everberg and Pickard were sent down so each player could see more playing time.

"Since he has been back from his injury, he hasn't played as well as before," Roy said of Everberg, who missed eight games with a shoulder injury from Nov. 22 to Dec. 9. "I think it will be great for him to see more action. Play more than eight, nine minutes per game. If he could play 10, 15, 20 minutes in some game, I think it is going to help his game also."

Roy had previously said he was going to keep Pickard around for a few extra days to make sure primary starting goalie Semyon Varlamov was completely healthy and ready to take on a full workload. But after talking with Varlamov the past few days, the Avs coach is confident that 'Varly' is 100 percent ready.

"I'm not nervous with Varly," Roy said. "He's a strong person, and he's been working hard in the gym. The schedule is every other day, we play a lot of home games, and it's time for us to have our No. 1 goalie playing again."

The reason why Pickard was sent to the minors instead of sitting on the bench behind Varlamov was because Roy said he and general manager Joe Sakic felt it would help the 22-year-old's development to continue playing significant minutes, no matter what league it was in.

Varlamov will make his second start this evening after missing 12 of 14 games with groin injuries. He made 26 saves in a 5-0 win against the Blues in his return to the crease last Tuesday.

Colorado is 1-0-2 this season against St. Louis this season and will be prepared to face an angry Blues squad that has lost four in a row.

"We outscored them pretty good before the [holiday] break," said Avs forward Matt Duchene. "They are a team that is pretty competitive, has a lot of pride. They are going to come out and play hard [tonight]."

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