Varlamov ready to return as Avs visit Flames

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(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche are hoping the return of their No. 1 goaltender can get them back into the win column, while the Calgary Flames are hoping to play spoiler to a familiar face.

The Avalanche expect to have Semyon Varlamov in net on Thursday night against the Flames, while Colorado forward Jarome Iginla makes his second career trip to Calgary.

Colorado had won three of four prior to Monday's 4-3 setback to the Montreal Canadiens, who got their game-winning goal from Max Pacioretty late in the third period.

Tyson Barrie, Daniel Briere and Ryan O'Reilly all scored for the Avalanche, while Calvin Pickard allowed all four goals on 30 shots.

"A big part of their game is transition," said Pickard. "They had a lot of 2- on-1 breaks and that one by Pacioretty got me at the end."

Pickard was assigned to the minors on Tuesday as Varlamov is expected to play for the first time in seven games. He has been sidelined twice this season due to groin issues, going 4-5-4 with a 2.95 goals against average and .918 save percentage in 13 games.

"(Thursday), it's game No. 26 and he's played 13 games. That means we've played only 50 percent of our games with our No. 1 goalie. ... What I'm very happy (about) is we took our time. We didn't push him," Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said.

"It's nice to have him back. There's nine games before Christmas, and it would be nice for us to get on a roll."

Iginla will try to contribute to that as he returns to Calgary for the second time since getting dealt by the Flames to the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 27, 2013.

Iginla broke into the NHL with the Flames and played his way into the club's record books during his 15-plus seasons there, becoming the franchise's all- time leader in goals (525), points (1,095) and games played (1,219). He was originally the 11th overall pick of the 1995 draft by Dallas, but never suited up with the Stars as he was traded to the Flames on Dec. 19, 1995 for Joe Nieuwendyk.

The forward signed with Boston ahead of last season and had 30 goals and 31 assists in 78 games, though he did not have a point when Boston visited Calgary on Dec. 10, 2013 and picked up a 2-1 win.

Calgary would love to keep Iginla without a point again and pick up a victory over its former franchise cornerstone. Doing so also would help current Flames head coach Bob Hartley reach 400 career coaching victories.

Hartley has recorded 70 wins with Calgary and also notched 193 wins during four-plus seasons as head coach of Colorado, beginning with the 1998-99 season. Hartley led the Avs to the playoffs four times and the franchise won a Stanley Cup under his guidance in 2001.

The Flames added to the bench boss' win total with a 5-2 decision over Arizona on Tuesday. Rookie Josh Jooris notched his first career hat trick, while Sean Monahan and David Jones also scored.

Karri Ramo made 27 saves on 29 shots for the Flames, who won their third straight game and for the seventh time in their last nine. Dennis Wideman, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Glencross and Jiri Hudler all had two assists.

"Young guys have stepped in and contributed," Wideman said. "It makes us a little more dangerous."

Calgary could get even deeper tonight if center Matt Stajan can return from a knee injury that has held him out of the past 15 games. He suffered the ailment on a knee-on-knee collision versus Montreal on Oct. 28.

The Flames, though, have lost six of their past nine versus the Avalanche overall and three of the last four meetings in Calgary.