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Varlamov "Making Progress" From Groin Injury

Pickard set to start; Duchene and Soderberg on a line

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Semyon Varlamov continues to recover from a groin injury, but there's not yet a definite timetable for when the Colorado Avalanche goaltender could return to game action.

"He's making progress. We're expecting him back on the ice here the next couple days," Avs head coach Jared Bednar said of his goalie on Friday. "He skated a little bit yesterday on his own. Today he is doing something different. Over the next couple days he'll be back out there. He's feeling better though."

Varlamov last played on Dec. 22 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs and has missed five of the last seven games because of the lingering ailment.

That was the main news out of the team's practice at Family Sports Center, one that saw the Avs go through some tough conditioning drills to finish up the hour-long session.

The first half of the skate featured some new line combinations that Bednar might experiment with for Saturday's New Year's Eve contest against the New York Rangers.

While he wasn't sure if the combos used will be exactly the same as the ones he'll ice against the Rangers, Bednar seemed fairly certain of at least putting centers Matt Duchene and Carl Soderberg together on a line, with Soderberg playing in the middle and Duchene at wing.

However, that doesn't mean that Duchene won't still have some center responsibilities, including taking key faceoffs. Duchene is second in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 61.7 percent and is equally as good on draws in the defensive zone, also ranking second with a 63.4 winning percentage.

"Obviously, he is one of the top draw guys in the league, so we would like to see him at least taking draws, whether he is playing center, or especially on his strong side [on the wing]," Bednar noted of Duchene.

Goaltender Calvin Pickard is expected to make his fourth consecutive start in net for the Avalanche. He's played in every contest while Varlamov has been out of the lineup.

Saturday's 6 p.m. MT game marks the fourth straight season and the sixth time overall that Colorado has hosted a match on the last day of the year. The Avs are 3-1-1 in those contests.

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