It’s Pickard’s turn to shine as goalie
The Avalanche haswon five of its last six games behind hot play in net.
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.”