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Tanguay To Return Vs. Rangers

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

NEW YORK—Colorado Avalanche veteran forward Alex Tanguay is set to return to the lineup tonight as the team takes on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Tanguay has been sidelined with a knee injury since leaving the Nov. 6 game at Pepsi Center after a collision in the corner during the second period. That was the last time these two teams met. Since then, the 36-year-old left wing has spent countless hours rehabbing to make it back into the lineup.

“I’ve been working hard, putting in the work. I’m just hoping to get back and play and help the team,” Tanguay said following Colorado’s morning skate at Madison Square Garden. “A young guy [was] coming in. I saw him coming. I moved the puck. I thought that his knee was sticking out a little bit. He knew what he was doing but young guys, they have to finish their checks. Just pushed my knee inside, so I sprained my knee. Frustrating, but there’s not much you can do.

“I’ve worked extremely hard. I think I’ve got experience. I’ve been through it before. I know what to expect. I know the work that you have to put in in order to get back in the groove of things and have some success. I felt great all summer, and I had a terrible start of the season. Now, I want to get playing better. I want to help this team. It’s up to me to put on my work boots and go to work and help these guys out.”

Now, Tanguay has a chance to come back and help the Avalanche carry over a solid performance from Tuesday night in New Jersey.

“Obviously, probably the key to our game tonight will be a good start,” defenseman Erik Johnson said. “They played last night, coming off a back-to-back. They’re usually really good opening up in their building, so the start’s big for us. Last game, we never really let the game get away from us. We didn’t trade chances too much. We kept it pretty in control, which is good for us. If we kind of trade chances, we get in a little bit of trouble. So, it was a pretty good effort from us.”

Watching from the outside, often in the training room or from the press box, has given Tanguay a glimpse at things he normally doesn’t have the time to notice when he’s knee deep in the action.

“You train for two periods, so you don’t watch [a lot]. You watch a little bit. You see different things,” he said. “The last two games, I was able to get to the press box in the third period, and from upstairs—you know, it’s funny how you look at the game on the ice and how fast it seems and how little time you have—from up top it’s a whole different perspective. You see the play develop. You see the time. You see the space that there is. It was good for me to see that, but now you’ve got to play. [There’s] nothing like playing games, and I’m hoping that I can get back in the rhythm ASAP.”

Tanguay admitted that he had a bit of a slow start to the season, and some of the frustration from being injured comes from that fact that he was playing better right before he was sidelined.

“I know that at the start of the season, I wasn’t playing particularly well. I wasn’t happy with my play,” Tanguay said. “I was just starting to turn it around and then you miss three and a half weeks. [I’m] very frustrated, and I’m going to try and work as hard as possible to help the guys out. Hopefully we can string a few wins together and get ourselves back into contention.

“I’ve got time to help these guys. I’d like to be in the playoffs, and certainly we’ve got to string a few wins together to get ourselves back there. I’d like to be a part of the puzzle. That’s going to help this team get to where it wants to go.”

According to Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy, Tanguay will slot into the third line with Mikhail Grigorenko as his center and Jarome Iginla on his opposite wing. Norwegian forward Andreas Martinsen, normally part of that pairing, will be a healthy scratch.


IT’S VARLY’S SHOW

Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov is getting the nod in net tonight against the Rangers after having a game off during this trip to the New York area. Backup Reto Berra played in the second game of a back-to-back set on Tuesday

Semyon Varlamov

night in New Jersey.

Although Berra played well, and Roy commented that he likes having some competition in the crease, Varlamov is still top dog for the Avs.

“I wanted to go with Varly. He’s our No. 1 guy, like I’ve said, and we want to give him a chance to get his game going,” Roy said Thursday morning. “I know that [Reto has] been playing well here in New York. I’m not saying it influenced my decision, but I really want to give Varly a chance to get back in his game, and we know that if we’re going to have a chance to get back in the playoff picture, he’s going to have to play a major role.”

Varlamov last played on Monday in a 5-3 loss at the New York Islanders in Brooklyn.


MORE OF THE SAME

The Avs are looking to bring the same type of all-around play that won them a close one in New Jersey to the game on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. There was solid defense, contributions from both forwards and defensemen and goaltending to support when needed.

“It’s great for us. That’s exactly what we need,” center Carl Soderberg said of what brought the team success at the Devils. “[If] we keep scoring goals and play strong defense, we’re going to be fine this season.”

Defensive output, coupled with secondary scoring, was part of the reason why the Avalanche won.

“It’s good. Any time the ‘D’ can contribute, put in on the scoresheet, it helps the forwards out for sure,” Johnson said. “There’s a little bit of offense we can add on the back end, and we got some guys that can contribute. We’re always going to be jumping in the rush and supporting the offense and, if we get our chances, dropping in holes, and hopefully we can create some scoring chances.”

Colorado has its work cut out for it against the Rangers, one of the top teams in the NHL. The Blueshirts are 5-1-0 in the second game of a back-to-back, which will be the case for the home team tonight. The club played at the Islanders on Wednesday.

“I think they’re like one of the best home teams,” Soderbeg said. “They usually come out pretty strong, so we have to play strong defense for the first 10 minutes like always on the road and then go from there.”

The Rangers are particularly good on home ice, and they lead the league with 11 wins in front of a friendly crowd at Madison Square Garden. The club is 10-2-0 in its last 12 games at home.

“It’s a fun building. It has obviously a lot of energy. It’s a good place to come and play. It’s hard not to get up for one of these games in this barn,” former Rangers forward John Mitchell said. “I know I only played here for one year, but it was a good year. It was a fun time. I’ve always loved playing in this building, even from the very first game I ever played here when I was with Toronto. Like I said, it’s a lot of fun and there’ll be lots of energy, I’m sure.”

That doesn’t mean that the Avs aren’t pumped to play in such a fascinating barn.

“It’s just a great building, a lot of history, and I think all the guys love to play here,” Soderberg said.

So what do the Avs need to do to have success?

“[We’ve] just got to play hard. When we get pucks in their end, we’ve got to cycle the puck and use our size to our advantage,” Mitchell said, speaking of his line of Soderberg and Blake Comeau in particular. “We’re three pretty big guys that can hang onto the puck and make things happen. I think that’s what we need to try and do, certainly in their zone, and then in our end, we got to play just as hard. You’ve got to get on them quick and pressure them ‘cause they got a lot of skilled forwards up front.”

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