Goaltender Semyon Varlamov will return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup for this evening's game against the St. Louis Blues after missing the last six contests with a groin injury.
"Varly was very excited to play," Avs head coach Patrick Roy said. "He looked sharp this morning, he looked sharp in the other practice prior to this morning, worked hard with [goaltending coach] Francois [Allaire]. It's a good situation for us."
Calvin Pickard has handled all of the goaltending duties while Varlamov has been out the past two weeks but will get a night off after playing the past six games. The 22-year-old will return to the crease for the game Saturday against Chicago and will look to build on the 6-3-2 record, 1.77 goals-against average and .948 save percentage from his last 11 games (nine starts).
Pickard helped Colorado go 3-0-2 in the last five games, which included him giving up only one goal in the past three contests. He is the first rookie goalie in franchise history to yield no more than one goal in each of three consecutive starts.
"It's a nice problem for a coach. Goalies are playing well," Roy said. "Varly is our No. 1. He played so well for us last year, he earned it there. He's having a good year so far. It's just a matter of seeing how he feels tonight, his timing. He needs to play and tonight is a good test for him.
"Calvin has played really well, and hopefully Varly will be sharp tonight."
Varlamov last played Dec. 5 at Winnipeg and has missed 12 of the last 14 contests due to groin injuries, which has sent him to the injured-reserve list three times this season. Last year's Vezina Trophy finalist currently owns a 4-6-5 record, 3.22 goals-against average and .909 save percentage through 15 games.
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said the club is confident with whichever netminder is guarding the pipes.
"Picks has done a great job of giving us a chance to win every night, but we know Varly is our starting goalie. He's been the backbone of our defense since he has come here, especially the last couple of years," Landeskog said. "I think he has earned the respect of being one of the top goaltenders in the league. … I'm sure you're going to want to give Picks some rest because he has played a lot lately, but it doesn't matter who plays in net. We have a good goalie back there."
Roy said Pickard's recent play has given the organization confidence in its goaltending depth, but he also noted that the call-up from the Lake Erie Monsters' stay with the NHL club might not be too much longer.
It appears as if the Avs will be rotating goalies for the next couple games until the team is fully confident that Varlamov is 100 percent healthy and can handle the full starting workload. Roy has said he would like to see the Pickard play as much as possible, which would likely mean the young netminder would be reassigned to the American Hockey league to play with the Monsters while Varlamov holds down the starting duties in the NHL.
AVS PLAY BLUES AGAIN WITH .500 ON THEIR MIND
Tonight is the third meeting this season between Colorado and St. Louis, as the clubs last played Dec. 13 in Denver – a 3-2 overtime victory for the Blues. The teams will play again next Monday in St. Louis, capping off a stretch of three games in 17 days between the Central Division rivals.
A win for the Avalanche tonight would get the team back to a .500 record before entering the three-day NHL Holiday Break.
"We have a chance to get back to .500 here overall before Christmas, which we feel that we have fought hard to get back to," Landeskog said. "Every time we have been close, it has slipped away from us. It's another game for us. Sure we want to be better on home ice but our main focus is just another game and playing the Blues tonight."
Said Roy on the team getting back to an even record: "It would be great, but I'm not thinking about the standings, getting to .500. I'm just thinking about winning this hockey game tonight. That is exactly what I said to our guys this morning."
Tonight's game will begin at 6 p.m. MT and will be televised nationally on NBCSN.
BORDELEAU BACK ON THE SHELF
The injury bug has hit forward Patrick Bordeleau again, this time possibly keeping him out of the lineup through February.
Bordeleau fractured his kneecap late in Colorado's 5-1 win on Saturday in Buffalo and is expected to miss 8-10 weeks, Roy announced after morning skate.
The injury occurred while Bordeleau was trying to deliver a hit during the first game of his season. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound left wing had missed the first 31 contests after recovering from offseason back surgery.
He was replaced in the lineup for the Avs' Sunday contest against Detroit with Dennis Everberg, and Roy will use the same setup for the tonight game against the Blues. Everberg will be on the fourth line with center Marc-Andre Cliche and fellow wing Cody McLeod.
Gabriel Landeskog – Ryan O'Reilly – Daniel Briere
Alex Tanguay – John Mitchell – Jarome Iginla
Maxime Talbot – Matt Duchene – Nathan MacKinnon
Cody McLeod – Marc-Andre-Cliche – Dennis Everberg
Jan Hejda – Erik Johnson
Brad Stuart – Zach Redmond
Nate Guenin – Tyson Barrie