Avs need Varlamov to step up vs. Jets

Semyon Varlamov had a breakout season in 2013-14 and earned a long-term deal as a result. The Colorado Avalanche goaltender has been trying to recapture that success, but it has been a rough start for the Russian.

Varlamov will be in net Friday when Colorado hosts the Winnipeg Jets, but his hold on the No. 1 goalie spot is tenuous. He has lost five straight games, including a tough outing in St. Louis on Sunday. He was pulled after two periods of the 5-1 loss to the Blues and has allowed 20 goals during his personal five-game losing streak.

He's permitted five goals in four of his eight starts and has a 2-6-0 record with one shutout, a 3.67 goals-against average and .881 save percentage. He is being pushed by Calvin Pickard, who was 3-0-0 with a shutout before giving up four goals to Arizona on Tuesday.

“Both guys, if I look for the battle for the net, we've played better games in front of Pick than we have for Varly,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar told HockeyBuzz.com after practice Thursday. “Varly's played real good first periods and now we need him to sustain his game through the course of 60 minutes or 65 minutes plus.”

Colorado is hoping it catches the Jets a little leg weary after they played Thursday night. Catching Winnipeg on the second day of a back to back doesn't guarantee a win, though. The Jets came in two weeks ago after beating the Dallas Stars at home and came away with a 1-0 win over the Avalanche.

The Jets won, 3-2, in Arizona on Thursday, the team that beat Colorado 4-2 on Tuesday.

Bednar shook up his lines in that loss, moving future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla to the third line and putting Rene Bourque on the second line with Gabriel Landeskog and Carl Soderberg. Bednar is trying to kick-start the offense, which has scored five goals in the last five games, four of them losses.

But boosting the offense won't matter if Varlamov doesn't come out of his funk. He could give way to Pickard if he continues to struggle, but he needs help from his skaters.

“We have an obligation as a team to play well in front of him as well,” Bednar told HockeyBuzz.com. “You saw a little bit last game we left Pick hung out to dry on a few of the plays and we end up losing the game. We didn't give up a bunch of scoring chances, but we gave up way too many odd-man rushes. We broke some of them up and we miscued on some, but the scoring chances we gave up, there were too many quality chances.”

Colorado will be without forward Blake Comeau, who is expected to miss his third straight game with a groin injury.

The Jets are coming in tired but happy after beating the Coyotes. They could also get fresh legs if defenseman Jacob Trouba makes his season debut. He took part in Thursday's morning skate but coach Paul Maurice stuck with the same lineup that beat Dallas on Tuesday.

“The performance of the players that are in the lineup now has to be important, and just getting him on the ice and getting him some time here, getting him comfortable,” Maurice told the Winnipeg Free Press. “It's going to be a tough call based on (Tuesday's) game, and really for some of them, when the player has to come out, we want it to be the right time.”

Winning Thursday might help with the decision to change the chemistry.

“You're more open to put a new player in on back-to-back (with) fresh legs,” Maurice told the Winnipeg Free Press.