REVISITING THE SEMYON DEAL: The Colorado Avalanche’s Semyon Varlamov will get to play his old Washington Capitals team this weekend, making it the perfect time to revisit a deal that has taken at least two U-turns since it was consummated back on July 1, on the opening day of the 2011 free agent market. Colorado paid a steep price to shore up its goaltending, surrendering a 2012 first rounder, plus a conditional pick (either second to third rounder) to the Caps to land Varlamov, a 23-year-old that they thought would solve their goaltending issues long-term. Given how poorly Colorado played last season, the idea of giving up a potential lottery draft choice for a player with Varlamov’s injury history seemed ludicrous at the time (Varlamov had never played more than 27 games in his first three NHL seasons). But when Colorado got off to a fast start - they were 6-0 on the road at one point this season - it looked as if the Avalanche would get the last laugh, and prove to people that they were more like the 95-point team that they had in 2010 as opposed to the 68-point team they had in 2011.
But just as quickly, the Avalanche’s season took a turn for the worse and they are now winless in nine on the road heading into Saturday’s date with the Capitals (thankfully, it is being played at home, where the Avs won the last time out, defeating San Jose in a shootout). But all those good feelings evaporated Thursday night, when the Avs blew a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes to San Jose and Varlamov was victimized by all three third-period goals. Colorado has slipped from first to last in the Northwest Division, is 13th overall in the West and if the freefall continues, will soon be down in the bottom five. Washington will be pleased to help that skid continue Saturday. If Varlamov ever has a statement game within him, it’ll be then.
AND FINALLY: Everybody talks about the concussion epidemic; nobody talks about the leg injury epidemic. Dozens of NHLers are on the sidelines, many because they tried to block shots, and the latest to leave the lineup is Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu, who was hurt the other night, and joins Devin Setoguchi, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and others on the sidelines for the league’s most surprising team ... Anybody remember when the Edmonton Oilers were 8-2-2 to start the season? Thursday’s loss to Phoenix dropped them into an 11th-place tie with Calgary, with a 14-14-3 record. At some point, you wonder if the Oilers will move Ales Hemsky, a skilled and injury-prone forward that doesn’t seem to be a good fit with the new-look Oil. And if Hemsky doesn’t go, does that make Sam Gagner a potential trade target? ... A good December for rookie goalies: Matt Hackett in Minnesota and Richard Bachman in Dallas both came to the rescue of their teams, following injuries to starters. Tonight, Leland Irving, who is on the Calgary roster replacing the injured Henrik Karlsson, will make his debut. Irving is a former No. 1 draft choice (26th overall, 2006, from back in the Darryl Sutter era). Speaking of Sutter, he is working to resolve some family and logistical concerns, which is delaying the announcement that he will be the Los Angeles Kings’ next head coach. It’ll likely become official next Tuesday, once the team returns home from its four-game road trip, meaning John Stevens will likely still be behind the bench Monday, when the Kings play the Maple Leafs in Toronto.