It has been a tough road for defenseman Ryan Wilson the past year.
After being held to just 12 games last season with a nagging ankle injury, Wilson missed all of Colorado's preseason contests and first the first four games this season with a minor knee injury.
Now healthy and back in game shape, Wilson will finally be making his season debut tonight against the Washington Capitals.
The toughest part of Wilson's rehab over the last month was a two-week period in which he couldn't do any physical activity.
"They gave me a little extra time to prepare since I couldn't do anything for two weeks. It was miserable for me, just sitting around and not even being able to bike," Wilson said after Saturday's morning skate at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. "It takes a lot to get back into game shape and I feel that I'm ready now."
Wilson has been skating for the last two weeks, but it wasn't until last Sunday's practice that he fully participated in drills with his teammates. Before that practice, his last action on the ice with the Avs was during the club's Burgundy/White Game intrasquad scrimmage on Sept. 15.
Colorado has begun the season with a 4-0-0 record – its best start since the team moved to Denver – and the defenseman from Windsor, Ontario said he can't wait to help the squad out in a game.
"The guys are doing great right now," Wilson said. "They are off to a great start, and I'm excited to get back into the lineup and help the team out."
Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy has been reluctant to change his lineup during the winning streak, but he will make one change against the Capitals as Wilson will replace Tyson Barrie on defense and will likely be paired with Nate Guenin.
Washington comes in with a 1-3-0 record, but the Caps have had a chance to win every game so far this season. Alex Ovechkin leads the club in scoring with five goals and seven points.
To combat Ovechkin and the Capitals offense, Wilson said the team just needs to continue doing what it has been successful at for the first two weeks of the 2013-14 campaign.
"We just have to stick with our game plan. It seems to be working right now," he said. "Everyone is playing well. I've watched all four games and our goalies are playing exceptionally well. I think we are living in the big time scoring areas and not giving [opposing teams] scoring plays. We just have to keep firing pucks to the net and play stingy defense."
Saturday's game for Wilson will also be a big game for another reason, as it will be his 200th career NHL contest.
VARLAMOV BACK IN D.C.
Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov is slated to get the start in net this evening and will play his former club for the first time.
Varlamov spent parts of three seasons with the Capitals before the Avalanche traded for him during the summer of 2012.
The Capitals selected Varlamov in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2006 Entry Draft, and he posted a 30-13-12 record in 59 games with Washington. He departed the Caps as the franchise's all-time leader in career save percentage (.917) and was second in goals-against average (2.39).
So far through his first three starts this season, Varlamov has been phenomenal as he's picked up three wins while only giving up one goal in each contest. He is the first goaltender in franchise history to allow one goal or less in each of his first three starts of a season.
Varlamov's last game was on Tuesday, where he made 27 saves against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
MORE MORNING NOTES
-Tonight's game is the Avalanche's first meeting with the Capitals since a 2-1 win on Dec. 17, 2011 at Pepsi Center. Colorado last played in Washington on Dec. 11, 2010 in a game the Avalanche won 3-2.
-Defenseman Matt Hunwick cleared waivers on Saturday and has been reassigned to the Lake Erie Monsters.
-Paul Stastny needs one point to reach 400 career NHL points.
-Matt Duchene needs three points to reach 200 career NHL points.
-Colorado is off to its first-ever 4-0-0 start since the franchise moved to Denver in 1995. Prior to the franchise relocating, the Nordiques started 4-0 or better three times.
-The Avs have not allowed more than one goal in any of their first four games, yielding just three goals total during this 4-0 start. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other team in NHL history to begin a season with four consecutive wins while allowing no more than one goal in any game was the 1995-96 Philadelphia Flyers. The last team to allow three or fewer goals in its first four games of a season was the 2006-07 Atlanta Thrashers. Heading into the weekend, the Avalanche has posted a league-best 0.75 goals- against average. The three goals allowed by Colorado is also a league low and the fewest through four games in franchise history.
-The Avalanche’s penalty killing unit has yet to allow a power-play goal this year, killing off all 10 short-handed situations. This marks the first time in franchise history that the Avalanche/Nordiques have gone the first four games without allowing a power-play goal. The previous mark was three games into a season without yielding a power-play goal set by the 1984-85 Nordiques and matched by the 2006-07 and 2011-12 Avalanche.
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