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Avalanche's Varlamov to return

Roy will tinker with line combinations against Jets

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

JETS (22-26-3) at AVALANCHE (27-23-4)


DENVER -- Goalie Semyon Varlamov will make his first start in two weeks when the Colorado Avalanche play the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday at Pepsi Center.

Varlamov was tending to a legal matter before he rejoined the Avalanche this week. He made 42 saves in his previous start, a 3-1 win against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 23.

"We're very excited," Avalanche left wing Alex Tanguay said. "He's a huge part of our team. It's like a good pitcher in baseball or a quarterback in football. When those guys are playing well, it gives your team a chance to win every single night. Varly has been the key to our comeback since December and January when we made up a lot of ground. We were way down in the standings and now we're in contention. He's a huge part of where we are."

The Avalanche hold the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, but they went 1-2-1 without Varlamov. Calvin Pickard played well while facing an average of 37 shots in that stretch, a 41-shot average in the past three games.

"Lately we feel that we're giving up a little too many shots," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "We'd like to cut down on shots against and spend a little less time in our own zone. Last game (a 4-3 overtime loss Thursday to the Stars) I think we were something like 26 minutes in our own zone, which is way too much. We'd like to cut down on that. The last few games we've been spending a lot of time in our end."

The Avalanche offense has suffered as a result. They've scored two goals or fewer in six of the past nine games, leading Roy to tinker with line combinations against the Jets.

Mikhail Grigorenko will replace Jarome Iginla at left wing on the top line with center Nathan MacKinnon and right wing Matt Duchene. Center John Mitchell will skate with left wing Alex Tanguay and Iginla, all three of whom have been struggling to score.

"Jarome and I have a lot of familiarity with one another, and we've played with John," Tanguay said. "We're looking to contribute a little bit more, play our game and play a little bit better as a team. Changes through the lineup, it happens all the time. It's nothing new to anyone playing hockey. It's a long season and there are times when you play good and times when you don't play as well as you'd like. We haven't had the success we'd like over the course of the last little bit, allowing a lot of shots and not playing as confident as maybe we were earlier. It's a great opportunity for us."

The Jets didn't have a morning skate after arriving in Denver following their 5-3 home loss on Friday to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Goalie Michael Hutchinson stopped 21 of 23 shots in relief of Connor Hellebuyck and could get his first start since Jan. 3. Hellebuyck has started 12 consecutive games and 23 of the past 26.

Winnipeg has lost two straight, gone 3-7-1 in the past 11 games and is in seventh place in the Central Division. They're nine points behind the Nashville Predators for the second wild card position in the Western Conference.

Here are the projected lineups:


Nikolaj Ehlers - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Drew Stafford

Andrew Ladd - Adam Lowry - Alexander Burmistrov Chris Thorburn - Andrew Copp - Joel Armia

Jacob Trouba - Dustin Byfuglien

Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers

Mark Stuart - Ben Chiarot

Michael Hutchinson

Connor Hellebuyck

Injured: Grant Clitsome (back), Ondrej Pavelec (knee)

Scratched: Adam Pardy, Anthony Peluso, Paul Postma


Mikhail Grigorenko - Nathan MacKinnon - Matt Duchene

Gabriel Landeskog - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau

Alex Tanguay - John Mitchell - Jarome Iginla

Andreas Martinsen - Chris Wagner - Cody McLeod

Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson

Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie

Andrew Bodnarchuk - Chris Bigras

Semyon Varlamov

Calvin Pickard

Injured: Reto Berra (ankle), Jack Skille (concussion), Ben Street (chest), Brad Stuart (back surgery), Jesse Winchester (head)

Scratched: Nate Guenin, Zach Redmond

Status report: Wagner will replace Skille on the Avalanche's fourth line. Skille sustained a concussion in the third period Thursday against the Dallas Stars.

Who's hot: Ehlers has four goals and four assists in a six-game scoring streak ... Byfuglien has four goals and three assists in a four-game streak ... Comeau has one goal and three assists in a three-game streak ... Johnson has three assists in a two-game streak.

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