Preview: Blues take on red-hot Avalanche in Colorado
The surging Blues go for their fifth straight victory tonight on FOX Sports Midwest
By ASSOCIATED PRESSFS Midwest
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy has lauded Semyon Varlamov for remaining focused through the distractions caused by his arrest while helping Colorado to the best start in franchise history.
If they need a humbling moment, though, they can refer to a lackluster performance against the surging St. Louis Blues nearly two weeks ago.
Varlamov will be in net as Colorado seeks a fourth consecutive win Wednesday night while attempting to avenge an earlier loss to visiting St. Louis.
After going 7-1-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average through eight starts, Varlamov was arrested Oct. 30 after an alleged domestic abuse incident with his girlfriend. Denver prosecutors on Friday formally charged him with one count of third-degree assault -- a misdemeanor -- while three other charges were dropped.
Varlamov has gone 5-4-0 with a 2.40 GAA since his arrest, including making 19 saves in Saturday's 1-0 overtime win over Los Angeles for his first shutout of the season.
"Varly's been like this since the start of the year, and he's been very focused," Roy said. "He's having the support of his teammates, and his teammates want to play hard in front of him, as well."
Roy has named Varlamov the starter for this contest and Saturday's matchup with Minnesota, while Jean-Sebastien Giguere will get the nod Friday in the first of a home-and-home, back-to-back set with the Wild.
Jamie McGinn scored Saturday for the Avalanche (17-5-0), whose 2.05 team GAA ranks third in the NHL.
"Team defense is something we pride ourselves in," defenseman Nate Guenin said. "We've got two rock-solid goalies back there, so if we make a mistake they are there to bail us out."
The Avalanche have won three straight following a three-game skid.
"We've beat the last two (Stanley Cup) winners, with Chicago and (Los Angeles), and obviously Phoenix has a really good team this year," rookie Nathan MacKinnon told the team's official website. "So, (we have) confidence for us going into (the game against) St. Louis."
Colorado has allowed an NHL-low nine first-period goals and is the league's only unbeaten team (15-0-0) when scoring first. That wasn't the case against the Blues, who got a power-play goal from Derek Roy just 1:54 into a 7-3 victory over the Avs on Nov. 14.
Varlamov entered that contest in relief of Giguere midway through the third period and allowed two goals on six shots.
The surging Blues (17-3-3) are looking for their fifth straight victory after handing Minnesota its first shutout of the season with a 3-0 win Monday.
Alexander Steen, who scored twice on Nov. 14, seeks another strong performance against Colorado after ending a four-game drought with two goals versus the Wild.
Steen's 19 goals are one behind Alex Ovechkin for the league lead, and he's approaching his career high of 24 set in 2009-10.
St. Louis has outscored opponents 15-4 during its winning streak. It is tied for third in the league with 25 first-period goals after Vladimir Sobotka scored 1:20 in before Steen added his first of the game roughly 12 minutes later.
"When you can roll four lines and six defensemen in this league, it makes yourself a very tough team to play against," said defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who had an assist. "We've just got to keep it going."
The Blues are 9-1-1 in their last 11 and could start Jaroslav Halak, who made 22 saves Monday and is 6-1-1 with a 2.02 GAA in his last eight starts. He made 21 saves in the last meeting with Colorado.
Avalanche forward Matt Duchene likely will miss his fourth straight game with an oblique injury, though Roy is hopeful Duchene will be in the lineup Friday against Calgary.