Semyon Varlamov might just rise to the challenge


If Semyon Varlamov’s goal was to prove that the Colorado Avalanche didn’t over-pay to get him, it’s unlikely that his life has been very pleasant this season.

Ultimately, the Avalanche just want the young netminder to be their go-to guy, which hasn’t happened often enough this season. When Jean-Sebastien Giguere went down with a groin injury, many believed that Colorado’s playoff run would die with it.

As it turns out, the injury instead opened the door for Varlamov to play his best hockey when his team needs it the most.

The athletic Russian goalie shut out the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets on 28 shots in a 5-0 win tonight, giving him a two-game winning streak in which he’s allowed a single goal.

Two games is far from a trend in an 82-game season. In fact, his record remains below .500 at 17-18-2 with pedestrian individual stats. Still, he could redeem himself – and two some extent, Avalanche GM Greg Sherman – if Varlamov can guide the Avs to a playoff berth.

Colorado in the thick of West playoff race

It’s certainly not out of the realm of feasibility, either, as the Avalanche are in a four-way tie for eighth place with 66 points. Sure, they’re technically in last place among that quartet because they’ve played an extra game, but they also are tied with eighth-ranked Dallas with the most wins of the four at 31.

Those details matter, but ultimately it’s all about how they play through April 7. Right now, the Avalanche have to feel a lot better about their situation in net – and the potential redemption of their seemingly failed No. 1 goalie – which probably makes them more optimistic about the postseason as well.

Video: Dylan Larkin adds to his rookie goals lead

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So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.

The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.

No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.

He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.

Latest report leaves Carey Price’s injury timeline fuzzy

Carey Price
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There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.

So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.

Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.

(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)

Lightning lament life as a .500 team

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of time to rise above mediocrity, yet it still must be deserving to finish at .500 for two straight months.

After last night’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, that’s exactly where they find themselves:

Record at the end of October: 5-5-2

Record at the end of November: 11-11-3

As of this writing, the Lightning found themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It all stands as a pretty tough thing for the reigning Eastern Conference champs to swallow.

The uncomfortable-yet-vital question is: can the Lightning break out of this funk?

Looking at their schedule, it won’t be easy, at least not right away.

They crawl through California during a three-game road trip to start December, and they also face six of eight on the road from Dec. 2 – 18.

The Lightning soak up home dates to finish 2015 after that, but what damage will be done by then?

Frankly, the Bolts will need to dig deep to break this pattern. If nothing else, they’ve fought with their backs against the wall before.

Dubinsky won’t change, and he won’t go easy on Crosby


Sometimes a suspension will shame a player, or at least inspire him to change the way he plays.

That apparently won’t happen regarding Brandon Dubinsky‘s one-game timeout session for cross-checking Sidney Crosby.

Dubinsky told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch that he won’t alter his style, whether it’s against Crosby or someone else.

“Nope,” Dubinsky said. “You know, I’ve played the same way my whole career and I’m not going to change. The next time I have an opportunity to play (Crosby), I’m going to play him hard.”

In case you’re wondering, that next opportunity comes on Dec. 21 in Pittsburgh, assuming that both players are healthy and not suspended.

One can understand Dubinsky’s perspective, although such honesty would be that much more interesting if there’s another incident with Crosby. His initial reaction to the hit was interestingly candid, admitting that his “stick rode up” on his adversary.

Would that stance – which, from a harsher view, might seem flippant to Dubinsky’s critics – open the door for a bigger future bit of a discipline?

Maybe, maybe not … but at least his comments aren’t as inflammatory as what John Tortorella said (at least on the record).