Mike Halford

Semyon Varlamov

Goalie nods: After seven-game absence, Varlamov back for Avs

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Semyon Varlamov will make his first start since Nov. 10 tonight, when the Avs take on the Jets in Winnipeg.

Varlamov, who’s missed the last seven games with a groin injury, is looking to regain his grip on the No. 1 job after backup Reto Berra fared well in his absence.

This hasn’t been a good year for the Russian netminder; he has a 3-6-1 record with an .890 save percentage and 3.26 GAA, a big reason Colorado’s struggled this season and is mired in the Central Division basement.

“Varly needs to be the Varly of two years ago. For us to win games he needs to be our best player,” Roy said, per the Denver Post. “This is how we view our team.”

For the Jets, Michael Hutchinson will start in goal.

Elsewhere…

Jake Allen will look to bounce back from Saturday’s loss to Detroit when the Blues take on the Sabres in Buffalo. The Sabres are going with Linus Ullmark.

— After allowing four goals on 43 shots in a win over Florida, Henrik Lundqvist is back in as the Rangers host the Preds. Nashville hasn’t confirmed its starter yet, but Pekka Rinne appears likely.

— Battle of the backups tonight when Eddie Lack and the ‘Canes take on Michal Neuvirth and the Flyers. This is Neuvirth’s first start since allowing four goals on 40 shots in a loss on Nov. 10.

— The Oilers’ starting gig is apparently Anders Nilsson‘s to lose, as he starts again, this time against Washington. The Caps are going with Braden Holtby, as per usual.

Tuukka Rask is up against the red-hot James Reimer when Boston visits Toronto. Reimer is 5-1-0 in his last six starts with a sparkling 1.31 GAA and .926 save percentage.

Jonathan Quick‘s looking to rebound from a tough outing against Carolina on Sunday — he’ll start in Florida this evening. The Panthers are giving Roberto Luongo the night off, and going with backup Al Montoya.

Report: NHL to implement comprehensive cocaine testing by end of season

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Sounds like the NHL is close to taking a major step forward in addressing cocaine use among players.

Per TVA, “all of the NHL’s drug-testing” will include cocaine screening by the end of this season. Currently, roughly one-third of the yearly samples taken as part of the program — designed to test for performance-enhancing drugs — are checked for “drugs of abuse.” (Per TSN)

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Cocaine use among players has been a prominent topic over the last 12 months. The possession arrests of both Ryan Malone and Jarret Stoll made headlines and, in early October, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly acknowledged a rise in positive tests.

“The number of [cocaine] positives are more than they were in previous years and they’re going up,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a crisis in any sense. What I’d say is drugs like cocaine are cyclical and you’ve hit a cycle where it’s an ‘in’ drug again.

“I’d be shocked if we’re talking about a couple dozen guys. I don’t want to be naïve here … but if we’re talking more than 20 guys I’d be shocked. Because we don’t test in a comprehensive way, I can’t say.”

Currently, the NHL has a four-stage substance abuse program. Stage One is for players that volunteer for treatment, and aren’t suspended while participating. Stage Two is for players that violate the first stage, and are suspended without pay while undergoing treatment.

Stage Three is for violators of the second stage, and carries a minimum six-month suspension without pay. Stage Four is for violators of the third stage — it carries a one-year suspension without pay, and the player’s reinstatement is at the discretion of the NHL and NHLPA.

Related: Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Ex-NHLer White charged with weapons offenses

Nick Bonino, Ian White
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Ian White, who appeared in over 500 games over an eight-year NHL career, was arrested and charged in Winnipeg on Friday with a variety of weapons-related offenses, per the Sun.

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White was remanded into custody and charged with two counts each of careless use/storage of a firearm or prohibited device and possession of a firearm at an unauthorized place.

White was also charged with breach of recognizance, unauthorized possession of a firearm and unauthorized importing of a firearm.

The 31-year-old has a history of legal issues. He was arrested for impaired driving in 2005 and, per TSN, was charged with driving while disqualified a year later, while a member of the Maple Leafs.

White hasn’t played in the NHL since appearing in 25 games for Detroit during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign.

He later spent a short time in the KHL, followed by stints with Boston’s and Nashville’s AHL affiliates.

Jets say Pavelec has ‘significant’ knee sprain, won’t play until January at earliest

Winnipeg Jets v New York Islanders

The news is in on Ondrej Pavelec, and it’s not good.

Per Jets head coach Paul Maurice, the Czech netminder suffered a significant knee sprain in Saturday’s collision with Shane Doan, and has been ruled out until the new year.

Maurice said Pavelec would return by January at the earliest, meaning the 28-year-old ‘tender will miss at least 16 games.

If there is a silver lining here, it’s that Pavelec’s injury has resulted in the Jets bringing up Connor Hellebuyck.

Recalled yesterday from AHL Manitoba, Hellebuyck — considered one of the best young goalie prospects in hockey — will (presumably) get his first opportunity at the NHL level in the near future.

Michael Hutchinson, clearly the 1B to Pavelec’s 1A in the goalie pecking order, will probably see the majority of the starts, but it’s hard imagine both Maurice and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff keeping Hellebuyck bolted to the pine, especially with his billing as the organization’s goalie of the future.

Which brings us to this week.

The Jets play four times, which includes a three-game road swing through Washington, Minnesota and Colorado. The Wild and Avs games are in a back-to-back scenario (Friday, Nov. 27 and Saturday, Nov. 28) — so Hellebuyck could be making his big league debut in a matter of days.

After 16-game absence, Stastny back for Blues

Paul Stastny
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St. Louis will return a key piece to the lineup tonight in Buffalo.

Paul Stastny, who’s been out since mid-October with a broken foot, will play for the first time in 16 games as the Blues look to rebound from a 4-3 OT loss against Detroit on Saturday.

It’s a big addition for St. Louis, to say the least.

The club’s high-priced free agent signing from a year ago, Stastny shot out of the gate this season by scoring five points in his first five games, playing on the club’s top line alongside Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen.

With Stastny out — and Jaden Schwartz, and Patrik Berglund, and Steve Ott — the Blues have been icing patchwork lineups over the last five weeks.

The likes of Jeremy Welsh, Ty Rattie, Magnus Paajarvi and Martin Havlat — who’s no longer with the team — got themselves in the mix. That lineup jugging is a big part of the reason why the Blues are just 2-3-1 in their last six after racing out to an 11-3-1 start.