Mike Halford

Semyon Varlamov

Goalie nods: ‘Now it’s time for Varly to step up’

The Colorado Avalanche are fighting for their playoff lives, and have a crucial tilt tonight when they host the Coyotes at the Pepsi Center.

As such, they’ll go with Semyon Varlamov in goal.

After Calvin Pickard started each of the last two games, Varlamov gets the nod for the first time since getting hooked against Minnesota last Tuesday.

More, from the Denver Post:

“We knew he was going to play eventually,” Roy said of Varlamov after Monday’s morning skate at the Pepsi Center. “I thought he had really good practices (while) Pick played really well in those games. Now it’s time for Varly to step up.”

Varlamov is 1-3 in his last four starts and trailed 3-1 when Pickard replaced him after the first period last Tuesday against the Wild. The Avs ended up losing 4-3 and Pickard absorbed the loss.

It’s been a difficult year for Varlamov, who’s failed to find the sort of consistency Roy’s been seeking. Stretches of good play — during the club’s winning streak in December, Roy called Varlamov “our best player, no doubt” — have been matched by equally poor stretches, resulting in mediocre numbers overall.

Heading into tonight’s action, Varlamov is 22-17-3 with a .912 save percentage and 2.79 GAA.

For the Coyotes, Louis Domingue is likely to start.

Elsewhere…

Ben Bishop gets the night off for the Bolts as Andrei Vasilevskiy starts in Philly. Steve Mason is back in goal for the Flyers after shutting out Columbus on Saturday.

— It’s Chad Johnson versus Garret Sparks as the Sabres take on the Leafs in Toronto.

— Good matchup percolating in Florida: Roberto Luongo‘s confirmed for the Panthers, while Tuukka Rask is likely for the Bruins.

— After James Reimer lost in his Sharks debut on Saturday, Martin Jones is back in goal as San Jose plays in Calgary. Joni Ortio will make his second straight start for the Flames.

John Gibson gets a big start for the Ducks, as they host NHL-leading Washington. No word yet on a Caps starter.

— No starters confirmed from either side for the Vancouver-L.A. tilt yet.

 

After six-game absence, Huberdeau back for slumping Panthers

Jonathan Huberdeau

Coming off an ugly road swing, the Panthers could use some good news tonight as they return home to face the Bruins.

Thankfully for them, they’re getting some.

Jonathan Huberdeau will draw back into the lineup for the first time in six games this evening, per the Miami Herald. The former Calder winner has been sidelined since Feb. 20 after a big hit from Jets d-man Jacob Trouba.

Florida is coming off a five-game road trip in which it went 1-3-1 and only managed to score 10 times. Things ended with a thud in Arizona, by way of a 5-1 defeat to the Coyotes — Florida’s second straight game without scoring on the power play.

“It’s a crucial part of the game and we are not doing it,” Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad said, per ESPN. “It’s not easy to score in this league and we’ve got to find ways to score, get in front of the net and jam away.”

Huberdeau’s return should help in that department. He’s one of the top table-setters on the team (second, with 29 assists this season) and is a regular fixture on the man advantage.

Zac Rinaldo got suspended again

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From the AHL:

Providence Bruins left wing Zac Rinaldo has been suspended for five (5) games as a consequence of his match penalty for an illegal check to the head of an opponent in a game vs. Bridgeport on Mar. 4.

Rinaldo has already served two games of the suspension. He will also miss Providence’s games Friday (Mar. 11) vs. Hartford, Saturday (Mar. 12) vs. Toronto and Sunday (Mar. 13) vs. Utica.

Rinaldo was suspended indefinitely following the hit, while the league reviewed the incident. Hence the two games already served.

This latest incident came in Rinaldo’s first game in the AHL after the B’s first waived him, then demoted him to Providence.

Boston’s decision to send Rinaldo down, of course, came just before the 25-year-old received a five-game suspension from the NHL for — surprise! — an illegal check to the head of Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette.

Talbot, Scheifele, Burns named NHL’s three stars of the week

Cam Talbot
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Edmonton’s Cam Talbot, Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele and San Jose’s Brent Burns have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Mar. 6, the league announced on Monday.

More:

Talbot went 3-0-0 with a 0.65 goals-against average, .981 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Oilers (26-35-7, 59 points) to three wins in four contests.

Scheifele led the NHL with six goals in four games (6-1—7) to power the Jets (27-33-5, 59 points) to three out of a possible eight standings points.

Burns paced all defensemen with 3-3—6 in three games to guide the Sharks (35-23-6, 76 points) to a pair of wins.

What a turnaround from Talbot who, back in early December, called his season “extremely frustrating.” He’d lost the No. 1 gig to Anders Nilsson, his numbers were unimpressive and there were serious questions about whether Edmonton would re-up with him for next season.

Then, things changed.

Talbot went on a run, won back the starting gig and, in mid-January, scored a three-year, $12.5M extension. Nilsson was eventually traded to St. Louis and now, thanks to his run of solid play, Talbot’s overall numbers on the year are climbing back to respectability.

Most notable is his .919 save percentage, which is just .07 off last year’s total in New York (Talbot finished seventh in Vezina voting last year, don’t forget).

Sens lose Borowiecki to ‘long-term’ MCL tear (Video)

Sitting six points out of a playoff spot with just 15 games to play, Ottawa will need a miracle run — much like last season — to qualify for the postseason.

And now, the Sens will have to do it without one of their most rugged rearguards.

On Monday, Mark Borowiecki announced he’d be out “long-term” with a torn MCL, suffered after banging into the boards following a bump from Tampa Bay’s Matt Carle last week.

Per the Ottawa Sun, the tear won’t require surgery.

Borowiecki, 26, had been a pretty regular fixture in the Sens lineup this season. He’s one of just three blueliners to have appeared in 60 games — Erik Karlsson and Cody Ceci are the others — and while he’s not much on offense, he did average more than 14 minutes per night and led the team in hits.

With Borowiecki out, Ottawa rolled with a six-man defensive unit of Karlsson, Ceci, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf, Mike Kostka and Chris Wideman in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Dallas.