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Colorado Avalanche Game Day: Semyon Varlamov returns to Pepsi Center

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The Avs will welcome a couple of familiar faces to Denver — one old and one new — as Varly and Martin Kaut make their Pepsi Center debuts tonight

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche will take on a familiar face in tonight’s game against the New York Islanders. It will be goaltender Semyon Varlamov’s first game back at Pepsi Center since signing with the Islanders in July of 2019 — despite him being vocal about wanting to stay in Colorado.

Still, after a string of injuries and the resurgence of current Avalanche No. 1 keeper Philipp Grubauer, it was time for a change, for both Varly and the organization. Avalanche fans can undoubtedly expect a tribute to Varlamov on Pepsi Vision at some point during the first period.

Varlamov had one of the most incredible seasons in Avalanche goaltending history in the 2013-14 campaign, a year in which he posted 41 wins and a .927 save percentage. Many believed he should have won a Vezina Trophy for leading the Avs back to the playoffs, along side then-rookie Nathan MacKinnon, for the first time since the 2012 lockout. My how things have changed.

The Avalanche and Islanders have played once this year back on Jan. 6 at the Nassau Coliseum. Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves in a 1-0 shutout victory for the Isles.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

The Avalanche may be looking for the keys to the Delorian after losing key players to injury in the two-and-a-half weeks since the All-Star break. They will go forward without Nazem Kadri, Mikko Rantanen, Matt Calvert and Grubauer for “weeks,” according to head coach Jared Bednar. Avalanche GM Joe Sakic will be calling on some young prospects to fill the void while he’s likely shopping the trade market for more viable long-term solutions ahead of Monday’s league-wide trade deadline. Namely, Pavel Francouz, T.J. Tynan and a surprise call up Martin Kaut are the ones being called upon to help aid the ailing Avs.

Many expected perhaps Logan O’Connor would be the next in line to get the call-up from the Colorado Eagles. So, what gives? Our very own Scott MacDonald and Tom Hunter think Sakic may be giving Kaut the nod to showcase his capabilities for other interested trade parties. He could be a key piece in a much bigger story as the NHL approaches the trade deadline.

The Avalanche played well in their last matchup against a red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning team. Good on the guys for working their way back to steal a point against a team that had accumulated 10 straight wins going into Monday night’s game. Nathan MacKinnon’s overtime turnover shouldn’t overshadow his dominant play throughout the rest of the contest. He scored his 33rd goal and notched his 49th assist on the year (82 points), but is still a bit behind Leon Draisaitl’s 95 points (league-leading 61 assists).

FORWARDS

Nathan Mackinnon - Gabriel Landeskog - Andre Burakovsky

Valeri Nichushkin - J.T. Compher - Joonas Donskoi

Matt Nieto - Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare - Martin Kaut

Tyson Jost - T.J. Tynan - Vladislav Kamenev

DEFENDERS

Cale Makar - Ryan Graves

Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson

Ian Cole - Nikita Zadorov

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

The Islanders — like the Avalanche — have lost their last three straight. And like the Avs, they hope to turn things around and are more than capable of doing so. Head coach Barry Trotz has brought a level of consistency and a defensive-minded structure with him to the Island, and it shows. New York has allowed the fifth-fewest goals in the league (157). The Islanders are poised to make their second consecutive trip to the playoffs sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Despite their success, scoring still seems to remain an issue for the Isle, however. They are 22nd in the NHL, averaging just 2.8 goals a game. Since John Travares took his talents to Toronto, Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson have stepped into the goal-scoring role. The two have combined for 49 goals this season.

FORWARDS

Anders Lee - Mathew Barzal - Jordan Eberle

Anthony Beauvillier - Brock Nelson - Michael Dal Colle

Kieffer Bellows - Derick Brassard - Josh Bailey

Matt Martin - Leo Komarov - Ross Johnston

DEFENDERS

Andy Greene - Ryan Pulock

Devon Toews - Scott Mayfield

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

GOALTENDERS

The Colorado Avalanche will continue to roll with Pavel Francouz in net, as starting netminder Philipp Grubauer remains out for an undisclosed amount of time. Frankie is 13-5-3 on the year, sitting fifth (tied) in the league with a .922 save percentage.

For the Islanders, Varlamov will get the nod. He will look to repeat his shutout performance against his old club in his old home. It will be a bittersweet experience for Varlamov and Colorado Avalanche fans alike.