December 10, 2014

Semyon Varlamov is back on the ice instead of the courtroom. The Colorado Avalanche are hoping he can pick up where he left off, and a meeting with the Winnipeg Jets should help.

Varlamov is expected to make his return after a two-week absence Saturday night when the Avalanche host the struggling Jets.

Varlamov has won four straight starts with a 0.99 goals-against average, but he hasn't played since making 42 saves in a 3-1 win at Dallas on Jan. 23.

He was instead tending to legal matters, which ended Tuesday when a jury sided with him in a lawsuit filed against him by a former girlfriend who claimed he beat her during an argument in 2013. Jurors awarded Varlamov $126,608 in damages on an abuse of process claim after his attorneys argued the woman was trying to get a payout from the goalie and the evidence did not support her claims of a brutal attack.

"There's relief, because it's been a long time dealing with this," Varlamov said. "I'm looking forward to hockey and focusing on hockey and enjoying the game."

He acted as a backup to Calvin Pickard in Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss to Dallas at home. Pickard finished with 40 saves, but was taken by surprise by a slapshot on a 3-on-1 35 seconds into OT.

That came two days after a 2-1 loss to Chicago opened this four-game homestand.

"They are all big games for us," coach Patrick Roy told the team's official website. "We need to be sharp in this homestand, but we just want to be better defensively. I feel that the last few games we're giving too many shots, and we have to be better in our zone. We're giving them too much time and space, and we'd like to reduce that."

Colorado (27-23-4) has a league-best 26 points (12-4-2) against the Central Division, including wins in all three meetings with the Jets (22-26-3).

Varlamov has compiled a 1.67 GAA while starting each of those games. He made 36 saves in a 2-1 win at Winnipeg on Jan. 18.

That was also the last time Jarome Iginla scored. He's only registered four shots in seven games since.

The Jets may be looking forward to opening a stretch with six of seven games on the road. They concluded a 1-5-0 homestand by giving up four first-period goals and their rally fall short in a 5-3 loss to Carolina on Friday.

"We got going," captain Andrew Ladd told the team's official website. "We got our legs going, we got moving. It's pretty simple. There's no special formula. We should understand by now, what needs to happen right from the drop of the puck for us to be successful, and that's moving and being on the puck."

Leading scorer Blake Wheeler has five points over the past four games, but his goal Friday ended a five-game drought. He has eight points in nine career visits to Colorado.

It's unknown whether the Jets will start Connor Hellebuyck or Michael Hutchinson in net. Hellebuyck was pulled Friday after allowing three goals on six shots in the first 4:33, and Hutchinson stopped 21 of 23 shots the rest of the way.

Hellebuyck had 32 saves against the Avalanche last month, but is 1-4-0 with a 3.42 GAA over the last six games.

Hutchinson has a 3.16 GAA while losing seven straight decisions in eight games. That includes 20 saves in a 5-3 loss at Colorado on Nov. 28.

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