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Morning Skate Report: Sept. 20

by Scott Ward / Colorado Avalanche

The last time Avalanche goalie prospect Sami Aittokallio slid onto NHL ice for a game was last April in Los Angeles, and the Kings were waiting for him in his first Colorado call-up.

Aittokallio held his own against the 2012 Stanley Cup champions, making 23 saves into the third period, but leg cramps ultimately torpedoed his first NHL action, and he hasn’t been back under the big spotlight since.

That will change tonight, as he’s slated to start between the pipes in the Avalanche’s second 2013 preseason game—against those same Los Angeles Kings.

Fellow Colorado netminder prospect Calvin Pickard is slated to play roughly the second half of tonight’s game.

Calvin Pickard

“It’s my first start over here,” Aittokallio said, “and it’s obviously fun, and I’m looking forward to it. This is my second start against the Kings, but I’m still not [going to finish] because we are going to play half and half, [but] that’s kind of fun.”

Semyon Varlamov played all three periods in goal Wednesday against Anaheim, and Colorado coach Patrick Roy said he expects Varlamov will do the same on Sunday in a road game against the Ducks.

So, tonight’s chance is a big one for Aittokallio and Pickard.

The two consider each other great friends—they split time last year with the Lake Erie Monsters, Colorado’s American Hockey League affiliate—and know impressions are important when playing under the watchful eye of Roy and new goalie coach Francois Allaire.

“It’s just one game, and it’s a preseason game,” Aittokallio said, “but this is why you practice and why you work hard: to play a game. So it’s going to be fun.

“It’s so good that we (Pickard and Aittokallio) are good friends, because the season is so long. We need to be able to talk to each other, and that helps both of us.”


Forward prospect Paul Carey is slated for a second line spot tonight and will be paired with Avalanche veterans Paul Stastny and team captain Gabriel Landeskog.

Paul Carey

Carey, a fifth-round pick (135th overall) in the 2007 NHL Draft who played four years at Boston College before joining the Avalanche organization last season in Lake Erie, has put together a “good camp,” according to Roy.

“We like what we [have seen] so far in Paul,” Roy said. “He had a very good camp, and I’m curious to see how he’s going to perform with Landeskog and Stastny on that line.

“I like our lineup tonight. These are all guys who did well in our camp. … [Paul Carey] has been doing well—good speed, and I think he’ll be a good fit with them. He’s had a good camp so far, and he deserves this chance.”

Carey helped the Eagles win a pair of NCAA championships, in 2010 and 2012. He was named to the 2012 Frozen Four all-tournament team after scoring three goals, including the game-winner in the national title game.

He spent all of last season with the Monsters, finishing fourth on the team in scoring with 41 points (19g/22a) in 72 games.


* Forward Nathan MacKinnon did not participate in today’s morning skate (hip flexor). A predetermined schedule has the No. 1 pick in this summer’s draft playing again Tuesday vs. Dallas in Denver.

“It’s not something that surprised us,” Roy said. “The first day when we had the medical, the doctors had mentioned that he might have those problems at the beginning, and that he needs to work on stretching. Nothing major, but we certainly don’t want to take any chances.”

* Tonight’s game will be the 13th time the Avalanche and Kings have faced each other in preseason action since 2005, with the Avs narrowly trailing 6-7 in that time.

* Colorado and Los Angeles faced each other three times during last year’s regular season, with each team winning a game (COL, 3-1; LA, 4-1) and the Kings taking the season series with a 3-2 shootout win in the rubber match.

* Tonight’s scratches for Colorado include, among others, Jamie McGinn, PA Parenteau, Cory Sarich and Alex Tanguay

* The Avalanche will open its regular season Oct. 2, against Anaheim at Pepsi Center.

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