Varlamov: We're not going to quit
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Now that the Avalanche finally have put an end to a losing streak that reached eight games (0-5-3), they can attempt to build a much-needed winning streak, starting with a Saturday matinee against white-hot St. Louis at the Pepsi Center.
While the Avalanche, who won 4-1 Thursday in Winnipeg, haven’t won back-to-back games since Nov. 27-28 against Nashville and Pittsburgh, the Blues have rattled off eight wins in a row.
“I don’t know about weight (being) lifted, but that’s the type of game that can give a team confidence,” coach Jared Bednar said after practice Friday. “Not just the fact that we won in Winnipeg, but just how we won.”
Dominic Toninato scored his first NHL goal, Gabriel Landeskog collected his 30th of the season, J.T. Compher had a shorthanded goal, and Sven Andrighetto scored his first in 23 games.
Matt Nieto had two assists, A.J. Greer an assist, three shots and two blocked shots, and Semyon Varlamov made 24 saves.
“No. 1, our focus from the drop of the puck, our commitment to play the right way,” Bednar said. “The detail in our game was really good. The intangibles – the guys blocking shots, the extra effort that you need to win puck battles. You have to make plays on top of all that, both on the offensive side of things and the defensive side of things.
“A lot to build off, a pretty solid game. Goaltending was really good. It should give our team a lot of confidence, especially when you do that against the Jets at (their) home that we can do that against everyone, especially on our home ice.”
The Blues have moved into third place in the Central Division with 29 wins and 63 points, quite a feat considering they were last in the NHL on Jan. 2 with 15 wins and 34 points.
With 23 wins and 57 points, the Avalanche were 10th in the West before Friday’s games, three regulation/overtime wins and two points behind Minnesota for the second wild card playoff position; the Wild were home to New Jersey on Friday night.
“It’s funny because (the Blues') kind of season is a little flipped from us,” Bednar said. “They had a rough start and now they’ve turned it around ... this is a team that’s really confident right now.”
Bednar wouldn’t reveal his starting goalie, but Varlamov was solid in backstopping the Avalanche to their first win since Jan. 19 when he had 30 saves in a 7-1 rout of Los Angeles.
“Every win tastes great,” Varlamov said Friday. “When you win, you just feel better about yourself. You feel more confident. The winning brings the confidence in the locker room. I could tell that everyone was excited to come into the locker room this morning. You see happy guys, and we’re looking forward to playing tomorrow.
“We have to refocus. We’re going to play a hot team, they won eight in a row, so we know how dangerous a team we’re going to play. We have to stick to the game plan like we did (Thursday). The intensity was there. We worked really hard. It was fun to watch. We were focused from the beginning until the end of the game.
"We’re not going to quit, we’re going to be battling until the end of the season. We kind of put it on ourselves the tough position a little bit because we were the best team in the (West) and kind of went down in the standings. We have to string together points; we definitely need a streak.”
The probable lineup:
Gabriel Landeskog -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen
Alexander Kerfoot – Tyson Jost -- J.T. Compher
Matt Nieto – Carl Soderberg – Matt Calvert
A.J. Greer – Dominic Toninato -- Sven Andrighetto
Samuel Girard -- Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov -- Tyson Barrie
Ryan Graves -- Patrik Nemeth
The Avs Better Halves will host the 22nd annual Avalanche charity brunch on Sunday. The event includes brunch served by current players and alumni, and a fashion show featuring players escorting children who have overcome medical challenges. A silent auction will follow.
Proceeds benefit Avalanche community programs supported by Kroenke Sports Charities.