Right wing PA Parenteau bounded into the Avalanche's locker room Monday at the team's practice facility, exhausted and out of breathe after finishing a hard skating drill that would determine if he would play the today against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"Give me a minute," he said as he sank into his stall before stating he completed the drill and would play versus Toronto.
The drill was called "Climbing the mountain," and it required him to go back-and-forth from the goal line to each blue line, to the center red line, and to the far goal line four times. He also had to do each set in under 52 seconds.
Parenteau just made it under the 52-second mark each time, and it was enough validation for head coach Patrick Roy to reinsert him into the lineup.
"He passed the last test, a skating test. He looked good, and he will play tomorrow," Roy said after Monday's practice.
This morning after the Avs' pregame skate, Parenteau was a little less out of breathe but was still confident in his ability to play after being out just over three weeks with a knee injury.
"It feels good," said Parenteau, who will wear a brace on his knee. "It was a long three-and-a-half weeks, watching the boys play, but I'm glad I get a chance to be healthy and get back in the lineup tonight. It should be fun."
Parenteau hurt his knee Dec. 29 against Winnipeg and at first the injury looked serious. The original diagnosis was for him to be out for six weeks, with him possibly coming back right before the Feb. 9-25 Olympic break or just after.
However after a few days of skating, Parenteau took part in his first full practice last Friday before being cleared to play just 23 days after suffering the injury
"It was a quick recovery," Parenteau said. "The guys did a good job, the strength coach (Casey Bond), [head athletic trainer] Matt Sokolowski, they are good at what they do. It was quick. I got lucky."
Despite missing 10 games, Parenteau is still in the top six on the team in scoring with 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists), but Roy won't be making any major changes to his lines with the team playing well, going 8-1-1 in those contests.
"I said it would be up to him to move up in the lineup by performing," Roy said.
Parenteau said he understands that Roy doesn't want to change a winning lineup, and that he looks forward to working his way back to being a top-six forward.
"I'm going to be patient," Parenteau said. "I know the team has been playing really well. I'm going to wait for my chance to do my things out there, and hopefully it comes sooner rather than later."
AVALANCHE SPOTLIGHT ON: SEMYON VARLAMOV
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov will make his seventh consecutive start in net for the Avalanche tonight and will look to break a franchise record as well.
Varlamov hasn't lost in regulation in his last 16 decisions, tying him with Peter Budaj (13-0-3, Feb. 24-April 5, 2007) for the most in franchise history. He is 11-0-5 in his last 17 games (16 starts) and has a 2.18 goals-against average and .934 save percentage during this stretch (1,017 minutes, 558 shots, 37 goals).
His last regulation loss was Dec. 10 versus Phoenix.
"He's been very consistent every night," Roy said of his goalie. "He's given us a chance to win every night, and that is what you want from your goalie. He played some outstanding games, Chicago (on Jan. 14) as an example. Going into Chicago, playing [with] 11 forwards and five 'D's' for most of the game, you certainly need someone that will step up and he did that."
Varlamov has won his last four starts and is 8-0-1 in his last nine games. He ranks third in the NHL in wins (24-tied) and saves (1108-tied), and is fifth in save percentage (.927-tied). He is two wins away from tying his career high of 26, set in 2011-12.
MORE MORNING NOTES
- Nate Guenin is making progress with his ankle injury, and Roy said he is "ready to play." He will be activated from the club's Injured Reserve List later in the day. Roy said Guenin will need to have a few practices to check on his conditioning before playing in a game. The defenseman last played Jan. 4 against San Jose.
- Forward Alex Tanguay is making progress with his knee/hip injuries, and Roy said the forward could play Friday in Florida. Tanguay hasn't played since Nov. 2 against Montreal.
- Forward John Mitchell didn't skate in the morning while dealing with the flu. However, Roy said, "I would be very surprised if Mitchy doesn’t play." Mitchell also missed Monday's practice with the flu.
- Defenseman Erik Johnson also missed the morning skate with the flu. He practiced Monday before suffering the illness in the afternoon. He is a game-time decision.
- When the Avalanche and the Maple Leafs first met this season on Oct. 8 in Toronto, both team had yet to lose a game in the season. There is a similar storyline in tonight's matchup as the Leafs are on a five-game winning streak, while the Avs have won their last four games and have picked up points in their last six (5-0-1).
- The Leafs tonight are making their first trip to Denver since March 24, 2011 (4-3 Toronto victory).
- The Avs have 28 more points through 48 games this season than they had during the 48-game season last year (67 to 39). That plus-28 turnaround is the best in the NHL, with Tampa Bay the only team even close (+21, 61 to 40).
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