Rick Sadowski: Important start for Pickard, Avs

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Rookie goalie Calvin Pickard will make his second consecutive start when the Avalanche meet Dallas at the Pepsi Center tonight. His play will go a long way in determining if he or the struggling Reto Berra will stick as Semyon Varlamov’s backup.

Varlamov has resumed practicing after sustaining a groin injury Nov. 15 against New Jersey and is expected to be activated from injured reserve in time to start Monday against the Montreal Canadiens.

Coach Patrick Roy said Friday he won’t keep three goalies.

Pickard has a 2-3-0 record with a 2.24 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. Berra has a 2-2-1 record with a 3.57 GAA and .883 save percentage.

Pickard made a career-high 42 saves Wednesday in the Avalanche’s 3-2 loss to Chicago after replacing Berra in the first period in consecutive comeback wins against Carolina and Arizona when he stopped a combined 42 shots without giving up a goal.

“He’s been outstanding,” said defenseman Tyson Barrie, who became good friends with Pickard during their time together with Lake Erie in the AHL. “He came in those two games and played really well and got the start (against Chicago). He never gives up on a puck and he’s always making the first stop. It’s nice to see.

“He’s one of my good buddies and I’m real happy for him. We played in junior against each other and in the minors together. He’s always got a smile on his face, he comes to the rink and works hard and it’s paying off for him. Everybody in here is happy for him.” Erik Johnson (neck) and John Mitchell (leg) will return to the Avalanche lineup after missing one and three games, respectively. Ben Street will be scratched.

The Stars didn’t have a morning skate after losing 5-4 in overtime Friday to Minnesota. They are winless (0-5-3) against Central Division opponents, as are the Avalanche (0-3-2). Anders Lindback is expected to start in goal. He has an 0-4-0 record with a 4.52 goals-against average and .845 save percentage.

The Avalanche will need to keep forwards Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn in check as much as possible. Seguin leads the NHL with 18 goals and his 30 points tie him for second with Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek, three points behind Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. Seguin has four goals and two assists in a three-game scoring streak. Benn, who has eight goals and 22 points, has three goals and six assists in a five-game streak.

Here’s the Avalanche lineup: FORWARDS

Alex Tanguay – Matt Duchene – Ryan O’Reilly

Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Jarome Iginla

Max Talbot – John Mitchell – Daniel Briere

Cody McLeod – Marc-Andre Cliche – Tomas Vincour DEFENSEMEN

Jan Hejda – Erik Johnson

Nate Guenin – Tyson Barrie

Nick Holden – Zach Redmond GOALIES

Calvin Pickard

Reto Berra Follow @RickS7