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Avalanche turn back to Varlamov against Hurricanes

by Rick Sadowski

HURRICANES (1-4-0) at AVALANCHE (2-3-0)


DENVER -- Goalie Semyon Varlamov, who struggled in the Colorado Avalanche's first three games, will start Wednesday against the Carolina Hurricanes at Pepsi Center after serving as Reto Berra's backup the past two games.

Varlamov has a 1-2-0 record with a 5.06 goals-against average and .841 save percentage.

"He's our No. 1 goalie and I think it's time for him (to play)," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "He's been practicing really well. I think he's ready to play a strong game for us."

The game Wednesday opens an important two-game homestand for Colorado. The Avalanche (2-3-0) lost two of their first three home games and play 11 of 14 games on the road after closing the homestand Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I think it's an important moment in our season," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "Any team that's 2-3 and has two games at home would love to go on the road 4-3, but we can't take anything for granted."

The Avalanche have gone 10-0-2 in their past 12 home games against the Hurricanes (1-4-0), who will play five games in the second leg of a seven-game road trip.

"We need to go out there and play hard," Roy said. "Who are we to take anyone for granted? We have to play solid hockey. If we're not doing this, we're just an average team. For us to be a good team we need to play hard every night and we need to respect the other team every night. We're trying to bring excitement to this town, we want our fans back. If we want people to come back and watch our games and have sellout crowds, we're going to have to be really solid at home."

This will be a short homecoming for Hurricanes defenseman John-Michael Liles, who spent his first seven NHL seasons with the Avalanche and still has a home in the Denver area. He's the highest-scoring defenseman in franchise history with 275 points (68 goals, 207 assists) in 523 games.

"It's a big trip for us," Liles said. "It's a big start to the trip tonight and hopefully we can get off on the right foot. Talking to the (Avalanche) guys that I still know, they're saying they should be better and we're kind of in the same boat. We have a good group of guys and I'm just trying to enjoy it. I'm trying to prepare for the game the same way I always have and still have fun with the game.

"It's kind of been either a really good game for us or a very bad game so far. It's been kind of night and day and we're figuring it out. Losing (defenseman James) Wisniewski (to a torn ACL) was a tough injury for us, but things happen and you try and battle. I think we're a better team than our record and we've played better than our record, we just haven't closed out a couple of games that we potentially could have won."

Here are the projected lineups:


Brock McGinn -- Eric Staal -- Kris Versteeg

Nathan Gerbe -- Jordan Staal -- Andrej Nestrasil

Jeff Skinner -- Victor Rask -- Elias Lindholm

Brad Malone -- Jay McClement -- Chris Terry

Ron Hainsey -- Justin Faulk

John-Michael Liles -- Michal Jordan

Noah Hanifin -- Ryan Murphy

Cam Ward

Eddie Lack

Injured: Riley Nash (shoulder), Joakim Nordstrom (lower body), James Wisniewski (knee surgery)

Scratched: Brett Pesce, Rasmus Rissanen


Mikko Rantanen -- Matt Duchene -- Jarome Iginla

Gabriel Landeskog -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Alex Tanguay

Blake Comeau -- Carl Soderberg -- John Mitchell

Cody McLeod -- Mikhail Grigorenko -- Jack Skille

Francois Beauchemin -- Erik Johnson

Nikita Zadorov -- Nate Guenin

Brandon Gormley -- Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov

Reto Berra

Injured: Jesse Winchester (concussion issues)

Scratched: Brad Stuart

Suspended: Tyson Barrie

Status report: Gormley will make his Avalanche debut. He was acquired Sept. 9 from the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Stefan Elliott. "Very excited," said Gormley, who was Arizona's first-round pick (No. 13) in the 2010 NHL Draft. "I've had a lot of good practices so far and know I'm prepared for tonight."

Who's hot: Skinner has two assists in a two-game point streak. … Soderberg has two assists in a two-game point streak.

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