(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche hope that the expected return of goaltender Semyon Varlamov can help them win three games in a row for the first time this season on Tuesday night when they host the St. Louis Blues.
Varlamov has not played since Dec. 5 because of a nagging groin injury that has limited him to just 15 games this season, but head coach Patrick Roy said on Sunday that there is a very good chance his goaltender can return to action tonight.
Varlamov was a solid 41-14-6 in 63 games last season with a 2.41 goals against average and .928 save percentage, and has posted a mark of 4-6-5 with a 3.22 GAA and .909 save percentage this season.
The Russian netminder is 5-4-2 in his career versus the Blues with a 1.92 GAA, .942 save percentage and two shutouts in 11 meetings (10 starts).
With Varlamov missing so much time, rookie Calvin Pickard has emerged for the Avalanche in net, earning a significant chunk of playing time over backup Reto Berra. The 22-year-old is 6-5-2 in 13 games this season (10 starts) with a 2.06 GAA and .939 save percentage and could finally stick with the team even when Varlamov is fully healthy.
"It's not easy (sitting Pickard)," Roy said, "but at the same time let's not forget what Varly did for us last year. Varly played so well for us. He was the reason we had 112 points and won our division."
Pickard made 34 saves in Sunday's 2-1 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings with another seven stops in the tiebreaker.
Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene scored on Colorado's first two chances in the shootout, but the Red Wings stayed alive with goals from Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar in rounds two and three.
Detroit's Petr Mrazek and Pickard then matched one another save for save until Jarome Iginla's goal to begin the ninth round. Pickard then made a right pad save on Brendan Smith to secure the victory.
Erik Johnson scored a power-play goal in the third period for the Avs, who went 2-0-1 on their road trip and have won back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 22-25.
"It was a pretty defensive match for awhile," Pickard said. "It was an exciting shootout too, but it's definitely nice to be on the winning end of it."
The Blues were on the wrong end of their most recent outing, a 3-2 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. The Sharks got the game-tying goal with 20.6 seconds left in regulation, then saw defenseman Brent Burns rip home the game-winner with 38 ticks to go in overtime.
Patrik Berglund and Steve Ott each lit the lamp for the Blues, who have dropped two in a row on the heels of a five-game winning streak. Alex Pietrangelo extended his point streak to seven games, with a goal and six assists over the run.
"We played extremely well, but we didn't get the job done," Ott said. "We made some mistakes and those mistakes unfortunately were in the last minute of the game and in overtime as well."
Jake Allen made 27 saves in defeat and is likely to start tonight when the Blues try to salvage the finale of a three-game road trip. He won his first and only career start versus the Avs on Dec. 13, making 23 saves on 25 shots faced.
That 3-2 overtime victory in Colorado was St. Louis' third straight in Denver. T.J. Oshie netted the winner, while Johnson had two goals in defeat and Pickard made 39 saves.
St. Louis has won the first two of five meetings with Colorado this season -- both past regulation -- and six of the last seven encounters overall.