Varlamov has been sidelined with a groin injury since Nov. 15 and is expected to factor heavily in the club’s 57 remaining contests.
Tomorrow, it’s game No. 26 and he’s played 13 games. That means we’ve played only 50 percent of our games with our No. 1 goalie. At the same time, looking where we are in the standings we believe that, if he would [have been] there for more than that, we think that we’d be in the playoffs right now,” said head coach Patrick Roy following Wednesday’s practice. “What I’m very happy [about] is we took our time. We didn’t push him.
Goalie - COL
GAA: 2.95 | Sv%: .918
“It’s nice to have him back. There’s nine games before Christmas, and it would be nice for us to get on a roll.”
Varlamov said he is eager to return to the lineup after watching so many contests from the stands.
“Yesterday I felt good, like 100 percent ready,” said Varlamov. “I’m excited to get back. I’ve been missing [playing] hockey. Nobody wants to be injured, especially in this time of year. I’m really excited to be coming back, I can tell you that.
“I’m ready to play. I feel really good. I don’t have any problems in my groins anymore. The pain is gone. I’m ready to play.”
Roy said that he expects Varlamov to shoulder a large majority of the remaining workload— most know just how important he is to the team—but that it isn’t just the coach’s desire to field his top goaltender that factors into his decision.
“It’s not just saying we’re going to push Varly. You have to look at the schedule,” Roy said. “It’s a good situation for Varly to play a lot of games.”
A competitor through and through, Varlamov said he is excited for the challenge but knows that winning doesn’t come easy.
“I want to win every game, if I play. Even if I’m not playing, I want the team to win. Every point right now, every game right now for us is really important. We want to be in a playoff spot and we need to be in a playoff spot,” he said. “All games, they are not easy, I can tell you. It’s not easy to play in the NHL. All the teams are fighting for a playoff spot. It doesn’t matter if the team is in first place or last place, they’re always ready to play against you.”
According to Roy, Varlamov will be between the pipes Thursday and, depending on how he feels, he could play Friday in Winnipeg as well.
Varlamov won’t be the only change in the lineup for Colorado on Thursday. Defenseman Nick Holden will be on the other side of the blue line, dressing as a forward instead of in his usual position. Karl Stollery—recently called up for the second time this season—will take Holden’s place on defense.
“It’s not an easy stretch for him right now. He does not have the start that we were expecting,” Roy said of Holden. “And with the situation with our forwards and the way that Stollery played when he came and played against Chicago—we were very happy with him—we think it will be good for Nick to play a bit as a forward and we’ll see how it goes.”
Holden played a little forward last season before earning a starting role on the back end. That situation is something that Roy said he hopes will repeat itself.
“Let’s try to do like last year, and hopefully his game will be sharp and he’ll have the confidence and play like he did last year,” Roy said.
Iginla Returns To Calgary
It isn’t his first game back to his former city, playing against his former club. That happened last season with the Boston Bruins. But it is his second game back to the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, and Avs veteran and former Flames forward Jarome Iginla is expecting things to be a little bit different this time around.
“I think it will always be special for me. Lot of good memories for me there and [I’ve] been very fortunate to live there a long time. Always going back there and playing there, I think, will be special,” said Iginla. “But it’s different than the first time. The first time I went back it was a little more emotional think, for me and my family and stuff. Now I think it will be fun. I think it’s more business. They’re above us in the standings. We want to move up.
“It’s not as nostalgic for me to be there but I look forward to going and playing there,” he said. “This time it’s business.”
While there will always be a special place in his heart for his home province, Alberta, the nervousness of his first return has already come and gone and Iginla hopes to harness the excitement his homecoming brings to help the Avalanche out on the ice.
“I think it will feel more normal and [I’ll] be able to use that energy in a good way. Sometimes you get a little bit too hyped up and a little too excited as players. I know my time going back last year, I probably was [like] that,” Iginla said. “It was a fine game. We did well as a team. I didn’t do anything exciting or anything like that, but l think you want [it] to be like playoffs [or] certain rivalry games. You can use that energy positively, and I’m hoping to do that this time.”
Alex Tanguay — Matt Duchene — Ryan O'Reilly
Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Jarome Iginla
Daniel Briere — Maxime Talbot — Tomas Vincour
Nick Holden — Michael Sgarbossa — Cody McLeod
Jan Hejda — Erik Johnson
Nate Guenin — Tyson Barrie
Karl Stollery — Zach Redmond