Avalanche-Kings Preview

Publish date:

Though Semyon Varlamov has yet to know the extent of his legal troubles, they've already impacted the Colorado Avalanche in the short term.

With their No. 1 goaltender still away from the team, the Avalanche attempt to shake off a lopsided loss when they visit the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night.

Varlamov's superb play carried Colorado (26-22-3) to four consecutive wins entering Tuesday's game at San Jose, which he missed as a defendant in a civil trial brought by his ex-girlfriend over an alleged domestic violence incident in October 2013. In his absence, fill-ins Calvin Pickard and Roman Will surrendered five goals on 23 shots as the Avalanche were routed 6-1.

Varlamov had yielded only four goals total during the streak, and his performance has been instrumental to Colorado's rise in the standings over the past two months. He's amassed a 13-4-2 record and a 2.23 goals-against average in 19 starts since Dec. 7.

Near the bottom of the league in points entering December, the Avalanche have gone 17-8-2 since to climb to eighth in the Western Conference.

After turning in two straight solid efforts that included a 27-save shutout of New Jersey on Jan. 14, Pickard allowed four goals on 20 shots in two periods against the Sharks. He's expected to draw another start Wednesday despite dealing with a flu bug that's also affected a few other Avalanche players.

''I don't want to use the word `distraction' but we had three guys sick this morning," coach Patrick Roy said. "It's hard enough to play when you're 100 percent.''

Pickard was pulled in the first period of his lone career meeting with Los Angeles (30-15-3), a 5-2 Colorado home loss on March 10 that extended the Kings' recent success in this series. The 23-year-old allowed three goals on eight shots.

The Kings won their sixth straight over Colorado with a 2-1 victory at Staples Center on Oct. 18, but Varlamov recorded 30 saves and Tyson Barrie had two goals and two assists as the Avalanche won 4-1 in Denver on Jan. 4.

Colorado went 3 of 5 on the power play in that matchup but is 2 of 23 over its last nine games. The Avalanche have 10 goals total in their past six as they face longtime nemesis Jonathan Quick.

Quick is 13-4-1 with a 2.25 GAA in 19 career starts against Colorado and owns a 1.32 GAA in winning his last six. The All-Star has been particularly dominant on home ice, where he's 8-1-1 with a 1.57 GAA in 10 starts and registered 22 saves in the most recent matchup at Staples Center.

Quick does enter this one having allowed three goals each in consecutive losses to Minnesota and Arizona. He hasn't lost three straight since season-opening defeats to San Jose, Arizona and Vancouver.

The Kings avoided their own three-game skid with a comeback Sunday in San Jose. After Vincent Lecavalier tied the game with 12.2 seconds left in regulation, Marian Gaborik scored with 53.8 seconds remaining in overtime to give Los Angeles a 3-2 victory.

''To pull off a win like this, it showed the character of this team and being resilient and getting timely goals,'' center Anze Kopitar said. ''We'll certainly take it.''

Gaborik ended a 10-game goal drought while the rejuvenated Lecavalier scored his fourth in six games, matching his total in his final 45 with Philadelphia. The 35-year-old was acquired from the Flyers on Jan. 6.

The Kings' Tyler Toffoli and Colorado's Matt Duchene, both of whom lead their teams with 22 goals, each have two in the season series.