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Postgame Wrap-Up: Francouz Gaining Valuable Experience

Avalanche goaltender has stopped 94 percent of the shots he faced in two relief appearances

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Pavel Francouz's experience in the NHL is something that he is savoring, even if the end result has been far from what he and his Colorado Avalanche teammates have wanted.

The goaltender from the Czech Republic appeared in his second career NHL game on Wednesday and his first at Pepsi Center, but the night ended in a loss for the Avalanche as the team fell 5-4 to the San Jose Sharks.

Francouz made 12 saves after entering the contest midway through the second period and helped keep Colorado's comeback hopes alive as the club scored three times in the final 24 minutes of play to make it a one-goal game late. Ultimately, the deficit was too large for the squad to overcome.

"It's always tough. I would love to celebrate with the guys after the game," Francouz said. "It just didn't happen. We did a great job; the guys did awesome in the second half of the game. We were just unable to finish the comeback."

Video: Goaltender Pavel Francouz on coming in for relief

Colorado head coach Jared Bednar was pleased with what he saw from Francouz, as the only goal he allowed came off a bit of an unlucky bounce. San Jose's Joe Pavelski missed on a shot in close, but the puck caromed off the end wall and right to the stick of Lukas Radil at the other side of the net. The Czech keeper did his best to quickly go post-to-post and thwart the ensuing attempt, but he wasn't able to get his pad on the puck in time.

Francouz's two contests with the Avalanche this year have come in relief appearances, as he made his league debut nearly two weeks ago on Dec. 22 at the Arizona Coyotes. He made 21 saves that outing and has now stopped 94 percent of the pucks he's faced in the NHL (33 of 35).

"It's really fast," Francouz said of entering in the middle of a game. "You don't really have time to think, you just go from the bench. It's your job as the backup goalie, so you got to be ready every minute and try to do your best."

Bednar said after Wednesday's contest that Francouz could see his first NHL start in the near future, as Semyon Varlamov is day-to-day with a lower-body injury and didn't dress in the contest.

"I liked him again tonight. He battles. He battles to find the puck. He battles to make second saves," Bednar said of Francouz afterward. "He's sharp and square and confident. I've liked what I've seen out of him, for sure, in both games."

Video: SJS@COL: Francouz denies Ryan and Hertl

Prior to his second NHL call-up on Tuesday, Francouz had been solid for the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League. In his first season in North America, he has put together a 13-7-2 record, tying for second in the AHL in victories and fourth in save percentage with a .919 mark. He was also leading the minor league in saves (659) and was second in minutes played (1,313).

Francouz signed with the Avalanche as a free agent on May 2 after spending the previous three seasons in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League. He's adapting to the smaller ice surface and faster game that comes with playing on North American-sized rinks, while also facing the best shooters in the world on a daily basis.

It's an opportunity for the right-catching goalie to show what he can do in the epicenter of the sport after also having success in his previous stops in the Czech pro league, World Championship games and at the Winter Olympics.

"I'm happy for every experience, every minute on the ice, playing with these players," Francouz said. "It's a big pleasure and a dream come true for me."

BARRIE TIES LILES: With his goal at 12:13 of the third period, Tyson Barrie tied John-Michael Liles' franchise record for scoring by a defenseman. The blueliners now both have 275 career points, with Barrie's coming from 66 goals and 209 assists in 443 games.

Barrie is also two goals shy of tying Liles (68) for second place on the franchise's all-time goals list by a blueliner. Sandis Ozolinsh holds the top mark with 72 markers.

Earlier this season on Dec. 29, Barrie recorded his 208th career assist to break Liles' record for the most assists by a D-man in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history.

MID-POINT RECORD HOLDERS: Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen have two of the most points by an Avalanche player (since 1995-96) at the mid-point of a campaign, ever.

After 41 of 82 games, Rantanen has produced 62 points, while MacKinnon has 60 after recording an assist on Wednesday. Peter Forsberg had set the previous high mark through 41 contests when he had 60 points in 1995-96.

It is the first time since the league went to an 82-game season that the Avalanche franchise has had two players with 60 or more points at the halfway point, and the two forwards became only the third set of NHL teammates to accomplish the feat.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are the only other club to have had multiple skaters with at least 60 points through 41 games. They did it twice with Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux in 1995-96, and Jagr and Lemieux in 1996-97.

HEY NOW, YOU'RE AN ALL-STAR: The Avs will be well-represented at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, as Rantanen will join MacKinnon on the Central Division team later this month after being named to the mid-season classic prior to Wednesday's game. MacKinnon was voted captain of the Central squad by fans in December.

This is the first time that Colorado has had multiple players at all-star weekend since 2010-11 when Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny represented the club.

Rantanen and MacKinnon rank second and third, respectively, in the league in scoring and are two of only three players to reach the 60-point threshold his season.

The Avalanche could have one more skater on Team Central, as Gabriel Landeskog is one of 31 players up for the "Last Men In" vote that begins on Thursday at 10 a.m. MT and goes until Jan. 10. Landeskog is tied for fourth in the NHL with 24 goals and first with seven game-winners.

NHL All-Star Weekend is Jan. 25-26 at SAP Center in San Jose.

WILSON INJURY UPDATE: Injured forward Colin Wilson skated with the club for the second consecutive day and is making progress in his recovery from an upper-body injury.

Wilson took part in the team's morning skate in a red, non-contact jersey, one day after participating in the Avs' optional practice. He has been out since getting hurt on Dec. 21 against the Chicago Blackhawks, missing the last five games.

"He's doing much better," Bednar said of Wilson. "Skated a few times this week on his own, joined the group briefly and then today--obviously it's not a heavy-lifting day, (or) big contact day--at the pregame skate. He gets through the whole practice, so positive signs from him.

"I can't really give a timeframe, I don't really know. It's one of those things where [the trainers] will let me know when he is ready to go. I hope that is getting closer. He is a big part of our lineup, certainly the size and ability to protect pucks and the physical presence that he brings."

Mark Barberio (upper body) and Conor Timmins (concussion) also skated in non-contact sweaters during morning skate.

MORE POSTGAME NOTES: The Avalanche scored twice in the third period and now has 58 goals in the final frame of regulation, the second most third-period goals of any team in the league (Calgary, 60).

Tyson Jost recorded his second career two-goal game (also: April 1, 2018 at Anaheim).

Alexander Kerfoot notched his seventh multi-point game of the season with two assists.

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