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Varlamov Gets Goal Support In Avalanche Victory

Colorado scores four goals for the first time in nearly four weeks

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Semyon Varlamov didn't have to be the best player on the ice on Tuesday, and that's a good thing for the Colorado Avalanche.

The goaltender had another solid outing and received goal support to back him up in the team's 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at Pepsi Center.

"The best defense is a good offense and we had a little bit of that going tonight, but Varly did make some big saves," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "When we had a breakdown, especially when they started their push in third period, we needed him to make some big saves and he did."

Varlamov stopped 32 shots, but he didn't have to be brilliant for Colorado to get the win. The Avs defense did a good job of letting the goalie see pucks, and the offense woke up for its largest goal output since a 4-0 win on Oct. 20 at Tampa Bay.

The Avalanche entered Tuesday with just seven tallies in its previous six contests and had only scored more than two goals once since the start of November.

"We played better as a team, especially today," Varlamov said. "We scored some goals, which has been tough for us lately, scoring any goals. To score four today, I'm really happy about it, and I think we played really solid as a team for all 60 minutes."

Video: Semyon Varlamov talks about the win

Varlamov was playing in his third straight game, going 2-1-0 in that time. His one loss might have been his best performance of the season as he made 44 saves on Sunday against the Boston Bruins, but the Avs could only muster 20 shots on goal at the other end of the ice.

The goalie had lost five games in a row prior to his recent stretch of consecutive contests, but Colorado only scored four total goals in that time frame.

"It's important to stay positive no matter what," Varlamov said. "It's a long season. We're not going to win all the games, but we need to work hard as a team every game when we step on the ice. That's how we're going to win the hockey games like we did today."

Forward Blake Comeau said it was good for the team to have an overall solid outing in front of Varlamov.

"Varly has been standing on his head for us and keeping us in some games where we didn't deserve to be in," Comeau said. "Tonight, I thought it was a great effort all around, from Varly to our 'D' to our forwards."

The only real acrobatics Varlamov had to do against Los Angeles was in the first period when he stopped a puck with his mask and then denied the rebound attempt soon after with his shoulder.

"I was trying to stop the shot with my head because I knew it goes right to my forehead," he said. "You don't see that very often, but it was kind of a funny moment. I'm glad I stopped that one, and I didn't hurt myself."

Video: Coach Bednar's postgame press conference

The Avalanche finished its first homestand of the season with a 2-2-0 record and will get a chance to get back to an even mark on Thursday at the Dallas Stars.

Colorado, which is now 7-8-0 on the year, has been floating just below .500 for the last two weeks and is looking to use the confidence from the win over the Kings to get on a roll during the upcoming three-game road trip.

"When you start dropping one game back, two games back, you certainly don't want to go three games back (of .500) at this point," Bednar said. "We got to keep grinding out wins and staying in the mix and keep improving as a team. The big picture is to be the best version of ourselves that we can be on a nightly basis, and hopefully we get incrementally better as the season goes on. I think we're doing that."

RETURNING TO THE LINEUP

Forward Blake Comeau and defenseman Patrick Wiercioch were back on the ice Tuesday after being absent recently for different reasons. They also both found ways to contribute offensively, with each player recording their second goal of the season.

Comeau was playing in his first outing after missing four contests with a nagging groin injury, while Wiercioch made his return to the team's blue line after being a healthy scratch in the previous two games.

Wiercioch, who was on the left side of a defensive pairing with Tyson Barrie, opened the game's scoring 1:10 into the second period. The University of Denver alum took the puck from the left half wall, went around the net and stuffed it across the goal line on a wraparound shot.

He then added an assist on Rene Bourque's tally 22 seconds later.

"I thought Pat was awesome. I know he was sad the last couple games and I'm sure he wasn't happy with it, but his play started to dip," Bednar said. "For me, he was rock solid right from the get-go. He brings a little bit of everything. I don't think he's really exceptional at one thing, but he's really good at a lot of things and he's a steady force back there. He moved the puck real well."

Comeau gave the Avs a little insurance on their lead as his shot from the high slot beat goaltender Peter Budaj as Jarome Iginla was providing a screen in front. The goal was reviewed by the officials and eventually upheld to give the Avalanche a 3-1 advantage.

"I thought he had a little bit of a slow start to the game actually, but he's been out for a while so it's to be expected," the Colorado coach noted of Comeau. "He's a strong guy and can come up with pucks, and he makes a nice play to cut the seam and shoot it to the net. So he gets a big goal for us."

Comeau, who was on a line with John Mitchell and Iginla, also added six hits, two takeaways and three shots on goal.

Video: Blake Comeau on scoring and his health

FULL PRACTICE FOR DUCHENE ON WEDNESDAY

Avalanche forward Matt Duchene skated for the first time Tuesday morning since suffering a head injury and should be a full participant in Wednesday's practice.

"He felt great. Still feeling good, and he took his baseline test and passed," Bednar said of Duchene, who was suffering concussion-like symptoms. "So he looks like he's progressing to a spot where tomorrow he'll practice, full practice with the team. As long as he keeps showing those (good) symptoms then he should be a player for us."

Duchene is the Avs leading scorer with 11 points (six goals and five assists), but he's missed the last two games after being hit in the head during the second period of Friday's contest against the Winnipeg Jets.

The forward participated in Tuesday's morning skate wearing a red, non-contact jersey. According to Bednar, he was going to travel no matter what with the Avs on their upcoming road trip.

 

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