The Colorado Avalanche have received plenty of attention for their blazing start, but coach Patrick Roy is now tasked with deflecting negative press as a result of goaltender Semyon Varlamov's recent arrest.
Varlamov was allowed to travel with the team and will get the start as Colorado, along with newly acquired forward Maxime Talbot, seeks a fifth straight victory when it faces the Dallas Stars on Friday night.
The Avalanche (10-1-0) have been one of the NHL's biggest surprises after finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, and Varlamov has been a major reason for the resurgence.
He's 7-1-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average after making 23 saves in Sunday's 3-2 victory over Winnipeg. The following day, though, Varlamov's girlfriend accused him of domestic abuse, leading to his arrest on suspicion of second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault.
The goaltender spent Wednesday night in jail but was released after his court appearance Thursday, posting $5,000 bond, and he was granted approval to rejoin the Avalanche as prosecutors consider the charges.
Roy announced after the team's Friday morning skate that Varlamov will be in net against Dallas (5-6-1).
"I just feel it's the right decision," Roy said. "Why wait? (Varlamov) looks good this morning. We're all aware what happened and we just feel that he's our guy. We have a lot of confidence in him as a goalie. We feel that it's good for him to play (Friday)."
Varlamov made 39 saves and Matt Duchene scored twice as the Avalanche beat the Stars 3-2 on Oct. 15.
"You just don't think about it," said Duchene, who has three goals and an assist over his last two games. "It's tough. You're concerned about your teammate. We all love Varly in here. I think we're all pretty confident this is going to get resolved pretty quickly."
Though Varlamov was solid in the last meeting, Stars coach Lindy Ruff realizes his team will be in for a tough challenge no matter who is in net for Colorado.
"Strong play by their goaltending, I'd probably start there," Ruff said when asked about the Avalanche's success. "Their young forwards up front have been fabulous. They've found ways to win a few games they probably shouldn't have won - maybe even against us, but we didn't get enough by their goaltender."
The Avalanche added some experience Thursday, dealing 26-year-old Steve Downie to Philadelphia for Talbot, who is expected to play in this contest.
Talbot won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, and Roy said his special teams play was key to making the deal. Colorado leads the NHL with a 92.3 penalty-kill percentage.
"He's a great penalty killer, (and) we feel that he's going to bring a lot of depth to our team," Roy said. "We think he'll be a great addition to this team."
Talbot said he was overwhelmed by the trade but is ready to join his new teammates.
''I've been following their great start to the season, what they've been doing,'' Talbot said. ''I'm really excited to be part of it.''
The Stars have converted only 2 of 24 power-play chances over their last seven since going 1 for 4 against Colorado, and they failed on their only opportunity in a 2-1 loss to Montreal on Tuesday.
Cody Eakin, who scored in the first meeting, netted the lone goal for Dallas.
Ruff said his team has shown improvement lately. The Stars are 3-1-1 at home and have won three of the last four home matchups with Colorado.
"I think we're getting closer to where we want to be," Ruff said. "We've really cut down on the careless plays of late, but I want to see us creating more. We're making steps, and the one that really counts right now is learning how to win."
Kari Lehtonen, 4-2-1 with a 1.66 GAA in seven starts, made 22 saves Tuesday and could be in net for this contest.
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- Ice Hockey
- Semyon Varlamov
- Maxime Talbot
- Patrick Roy