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Varlamov Practices But Won't Travel To Minnesota

The goaltender has been out this week with an illness

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Semyon Varlamov returned to the practice ice on Thursday after being away from his teammates for the past several days with an illness, but the Colorado Avalanche goaltender won't make the trip to Minnesota for Friday's game at the Wild.

Head coach Jared Bednar eluded to Varlamov staying in Denver earlier in the week so the Colorado starting netminder could get fully healthy.

"Practicing, traveling, it's not necessarily conducive to getting better," Bednar said when updating Varlamov's status on Wednesday morning.

Jonathan Bernier will make his third consecutive start in goal for the Avalanche on Friday, while Andrew Hammond will be the backup netminder. Bernier made 28 saves in the Avs' 3-0 win against the Dallas Stars on Wednesday.

Despite not making the trip, Varlamov said he was happy that he could skate with his teammates at Family Sports Center after missing Colorado's last two on-ice sessions--Tuesday's practice and Wednesday's morning skate.

"Today was a good day. I'm glad I'm feeling better," Varlamov said to "I had a chance to skate with the team because the schedule is pretty tough right now. The team is traveling, there is no practice tomorrow. I'll be staying here with a couple guys and then we'll skate tomorrow morning."

Friday's afternoon contest against Minnesota will be the Central-Division rivals' first meeting of the season and the first half of a back-to-back for the Avs, who host the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center on Saturday night.

The Avalanche practiced for 30 minutes on the morning of American Thanksgiving before giving the players the rest of the afternoon off. The team has a flight scheduled to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in the evening.

Bloomington, Minnesota, native Erik Johnson participated in the Avs on-ice session but quickly rushed out of the building following practice to catch a flight. The defenseman was traveling home early to spend part of the holiday with his family and will meet up with the team later in the night.

"I get to spend Thanksgiving in Minnesota with my family, I'm looking forward to that," Johnson said Wednesday night following the Avs' game versus Dallas. "You don't get too many holidays at home, so when you get that opportunity, it's pretty special. I'm looking forward to seeing my grandma, my aunts and uncles and my mom and dad and all the cousins. Get a good turkey dinner in before we play the Wild."

Johnson made the same trip during the 2013-14 season when Colorado practiced on Thanksgiving and played at Minnesota the following day.

The Avalanche has four other American-born players on its roster: J.T. Compher (Northbrook, Illinois), Matt Nieto (Long Beach, California), Dominic Toninato (Duluth, Minnesota) and Colin Wilson (Greenwich, Connecticut).

However, not everyone will be as lucky as Johnson.

Compher, who has spent his last four Thanksgivings with his teammates from the San Antonio Rampage and University of Michigan, said he doesn't have any plans to celebrate before the team's flight takes off.

"We only have three hours, and we didn't make anything," Compher revealed.

Not even a turkey sandwich?

"That might be the extent of it," he said.

Colorado only did positional drills during Thursday's practice, and the team has yet to decide on its lineup versus Minnesota.

Thursday also marked a big day for Gabriel Landeskog, as the Avs captain turned 25 years old. He celebrated his birthday early on Wednesday night with his club-leading ninth goal of the season.

Landeskog now has four tallies and an assist in his last four contests and is part of the Avalanche's top forward unit with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen that has scored seven of the team's last 15 goals.

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