Goalie nods: With Varlamov injured, Pickard goes for Avalanche

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The Colorado Avalanche will be without starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov on Saturday when the team hosts the Vancouver Canucks due to an upper body injury.

He is expected to miss at least a couple of games.

That injury opens the door for backup Calvin Pickard to get another opportunity to get some playing time. He has probably deserved more to this point in the season.

Pickard will get the call for the Avalanche on Saturday and will be backed up by Spencer Martin after he was recalled from San Antonio of the AHL.

The Canucks will go with Jacob Markstrom.

But let’s talk about the Avalanche situation for a minute.

Even though Varlamov has maintained the No. 1 spot for most of the season, starting 14 out of their first 19 games, he has been off to a pretty brutal start to the year with only a .904 save percentage. It certainly doesn’t help that he is playing behind a defense that is still a long way from being anything close championship caliber group, but his numbers are still way down from the level they have been at in recent seasons playing behind a similar defense.

Pickard, meanwhile, has continued to show a ton of potential and is 4-1-0 in his first five starts this season with a .931 save percentage and one shutout heading into Saturday.

It’s a small sample size at this point, and two of those starts have come against the Arizona Coyotes, but Pickard has looked impressive every time the Avalanche have called on him over the past three years. Originally a second-round pick by the team in 2010, he has a .927 save percentage in 42 career appearances at the NHL level.

Elsewhere…

— After a miserable start to the season Frederik Andersen has been getting back on track in recent weeks and looks to continue his strong play on Saturday night against the Washington Capitals. As expected, the Capitals will be going with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby.

Cam Ward has been getting the bulk of the playing time for Carolina recently and is expected to make his ninth consecutive start on Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators. He will be opposed to by Craig Anderson, who could also go again on Sunday in New York as part of a back-to-back situation.

— With Jimmy Howard sidelined for at least a week Petr Mrazek gets another opportunity for the Detroit Red Wings. He will try to slow down the Montreal Canadiens and will face Carey Price at the opposite end of the ice.

— No official word yet from the Blue Jackets and Panthers but a Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Roberto Luongo matchup seems likely.

— After Cory Schneider played on Friday against Detroit, the New Jersey Devils will go with backup Keith Kinkaid on Saturday night in Pittsburgh agains the Penguins. The Penguins have yet to announce their starter but after Marc-Andre Fleury played on Friday and gave up six goals you can be almost certain that Matt Murray gets the start on Saturday.

Jake Allen looks to extend his personal winning streak to five games on Saturday night when he gets the call for the St. Louis Blues against the Minnesota Wild. The Wild have not announced a starter, but after Devan Dubnyk played on Friday against Pittsburgh it seems likely that Kuemper could go on Saturday.

— Normally a Los Angeles-Chicago game would be one of the more intriguing goaltender matchups in the league with Jonathan Quick going up against Corey Crawford. You are not getting that matchup tonight. Tonight it will be Peter Budaj, continuing to play in place of the injured quick, going against Blackhawks backup Scott Darling.

— Backup Jonathan Bernier goes for the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday after John Gibson played on Friday, while the Sharks go with Martin Jones. Jones has allowed just one goal over his past two starts, stopping 59 of the 60 shots he has faced during that stretch.

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