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Varlamov To Start Against Jets

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar looks for his team to clean up its recent mistakes

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Semyon Varlamov will be back in net for the Colorado Avalanche's game on Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets, and head coach Jared Bednar is looking for his players to give their goaltender more support than they have in the past.

Calvin Pickard had taken a spot between the pipes in each of the club's last three games, starting in two of them. He recorded a 32-save shutout last Saturday against the Minnesota Wild but lost Tuesday's meeting versus the Arizona Coyotes, a 4-2 decision.

Varlamov last played in the Avs' 5-1 loss on Sunday at the St. Louis Blues, where he stopped 20 shots before being replaced in the third period by Pickard.

"I just think both guys, if I look at the battle for the net, we've played better in front of Pickard than Varly," Bednar said. "Varly has played real good first periods, and now he has to sustain his game for the course of 60 minutes or 65 minutes plus. We have an obligation as a team to play well in front of him as well.

"We saw a little bit the last game, we left Pick out to dry on a few plays and we ended up losing the game. We didn't give up a bunch of scoring chances, we gave up too many odd-man rushes."

Video: Coach bender's post-practice press conference

The team has worked hard over its last few practices, studying video and going over drills to correct the mistakes that has cost it key games early in the year.

"We need to make better reads," said forward Nathan MacKinnon. "Our work ethic is there. Our compete level is there. Just bad reads are killing us right now. Once we clean that up we should be better offensively and defensively."

"It doesn't matter who is in net. If we clean that up, we'll give ourselves a chance to win," Bednar said.

The Avalanche made one slight adjustment to its lines at Thursday's practice at Family Sports Center, moving Rene Bourque onto a line with Gabriel Landeskog and Carl Soderberg. Iginla, who was previously in that right-wing spot, played on a combo with Joe Colborne and Mikhail Grigorenko.

Bourque had a goal in the contest against the Coyotes, and Bednar said he's pleased with what he's seen recently from the 6-foot-2, 217-pound forward that joined the Avs in training camp on a professional tryout before earning a full-year contract.

"I just like what he's been doing. I liked his last game," Bednar said. "He's a physical guy. He brings a physical presence to our forward group, which we need a little bit more of. He's skating hard. He's tracking the puck hard. He's getting to the front of the net. Probably one of our best all-around games the other night, so we're going to give him a chance to earn some more minutes."

Forward Blake Comeau remains out with a groin injury, so expect Cody McLeod to stay in the Colorado lineup for Friday night. McLeod has played in each of the team's last two contests after being a healthy scratch for the previous five.

The Avalanche's matchup against the Jets will be the second meeting of the year between the two clubs. The teams last played on Oct. 28 with Winnipeg winning 1-0 after scoring the lone goal in the second period.

"They have a lot of good players obviously," MacKinnon said. "A lot of skill. Guys are putting up big numbers for them early. We're going to have to slow them down and focus on us. They have some good scorers, and hopefully that makes us more dangerous."

Friday's game at Pepsi Center begins at 7 p.m. MT. It will be televised on Altitude TV while AM 950 in Denver and will carry the radio broadcasts. 

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