After a two-week absence, the Colorado Avalanche confirmed on Friday that Semyon Varlamov is ready to return to the net.
Varlamov spent the previous week practicing with the team, working hard to get his conditioning up to par before he felt confident enough to start against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
This will be the Russian goaltender’s third outing against the Jets this season. In the series, Varlamov has allowed just five goals, posting a 3-0 record, a .942 save percentage and a 1.67 goals-against average.
Head coach Patrick Roy also discussed another lineup change to be implemented tomorrow night. John Mitchell will now be centering a pairing of Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay. The two veterans have previously spent time on the Avalanche’s top line.
“There is a bit of a concern, but at the same time they are veterans and they know what they have to do,” Roy said of their lack of recent production. “Certainly, they understand their role and I think it’s a good opportunity for the three of them to play together. They had some good momentum together earlier in the season that will create a bit of a spark for both of them and help them to play to a certain level.”
Roy said that the line of Cody McLeod, Mitchell and Jack Skille had been playing well defensively, but that he would like to see these players produce more offensively.
“We are looking to put points on the board, and I hope that Mitchy will help Jarome and Tangs. I’m not worried about Cody or Jack. They’ll play with Wagner or whoever, and I’m sure they’re going to keep playing their game. They are guys that work hard and guys that play hard for us, so I’m not concerned about these guys.”
The Avalanche has fired up its engines against the Jets this season, taking the first three of five meetings thus far.
Colorado plays its third-straight game against a Central Division team on Saturday, welcoming Winnipeg to the confines of Pepsi Center. The club currently holds a 12-4-2 record against Central teams, the best in the league.
“They are all big games for us,” Roy said. “We need to be sharp in this homestand, but we just want to be better defensively. I feel that the last few games we’re giving too many shots, and we have to be better in our zone, be quicker. We’re giving them too much time and space, and we’d like to reduce that.”
In a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday, the Avalanche managed 24 shots compared to the 44 put up by the Stars.
“I think it’s a mix of a lot,” Roy said about the high number of shots allowed in the past few games. “Turnovers on our breakouts, turnovers in the neutral zone, little slow going on the puck carrier. More pressure, better stick; those details will certainly help.
“Let’s not forget we played against two very good teams. We played Chicago and Dallas, and we were on the road against Los Angeles and in Dallas. We’ve been playing against solid teams. Overall, I feel that we defend pretty well, but we could do better.”
With the Avs continuing to pick up points, the club is holding steady in the top Western Conference wild-card spot. They currently have 58 points, three more than the Nashville Predators. Colorado trails the St. Louis Blues by eight.
The Avalanche’s four-game homestand concludes on Tuesday with a visit from the Vancouver Canucks before the team hits the road for five of its next six contests.
The Avs will take on the Jets one final time this season in Winnipeg on March 12.