It’s Pickard’s turn to shine as goalie

The Avalanche has­won five of its last six games be­hind hot play in net.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Cham­bers

While tempted to stick with the hot hand in goal, Avalanche coach Pa­trick Roy will place Se­myon Var­lamov — named the NHL’s first star of the week Mon­day— in a backup role Tues­day night at San Jose and give Calvin Pickard the start.

That’s pass­ing the torch to a guy sim­i­larly as warm.

Pickard, who has al­lowed just two goals in his last two games, made 35 saves in a 6- 3 win at San Jose on Dec. 28. More re­cently, Pickard back­stopped a 3- 0 win over New Jersey on Jan. 14 and took a 2- 1 loss at Colum­bus two nights later.

Var­lamov played the en­su­ing four games and didn’t yield more than a goal in any of them. Com­bined, Pickard andVar­lamov have al­lowed just six goals in the last six games, which ex­plains theAvs’ 5- 1 stretch.

“I was happy with a cou­ple games I played, against New Jersey andColum­bus, and thenVarly went on a very good stretch there,” Pickard, 23, said Mon­day af­ter an op­tional prac­tice. “It was huge for us, andwe’re rolling now. I’m just glad I get an op­por­tu­nity ( Tues­day). I’m fa­mil­iar with the build­ing, hav­ing played there a month ago. I just have to play my game, and ev­ery­thing will take care of it­self.”

Pickard’s days with the Avs in his se­cond call- up stint this sea­son might be num­bered. Reto Berra, who is Var­lamov’s reg­u­lar backup, skated in full gear Mon­day and is near­ing a re­turn from an an­kle in­jury. Berra went down out­sideColorado’s locker room at the Pepsi Cen­ter on Dec. 21 while play­ing soc­cer with team­mates and has just re­cently re­sumed skat­ing.

Pickard and Berra have iden­ti­cal .922 save per­cent­ages, and Berra’s goals- against av­er­age of .941 is just a smidge higher than Pickard’s .940. But the Avs will keep just two healthy back­ups, and given Pickard’s two- way con­tract and waiver- ex­empt sta­tus, he’ll prob­a­bly be the one re­as­signed to San An­to­nio of the Amer­i­can Hockey League.

The Avs, how­ever, could send Berra to San An­to­nio for a twoweek con­di­tion­ing stint in amove that wouldn’t re­quire waivers. One thing is for cer­tain: Var­lamov will have a wor­thy backup.

Var­lamov will start Wed­nes­day’s at Los An­ge­les in­Colorado’s last game be­fore the NHL all- star break.

“When he’s in the zone like this, it’s def­i­nitely re­as­sur­ing as a group of D that we have a guy like that back there,” Avalanche de­fense­man Erik John­son said of Var­lamov, who had 42 saves in Satur­day’s 3- 1 win at Dal­las. “You knowthat, if nec­es­sary, he can bail you out. He wants to see the pucks when he’s in a groove like that— maybe not 45 like the other night — but he’s com­fort­able in that 35 range.”

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