New York Islanders Semyon Varlamov has been activated off injured reserve, the team announced Monday, which means his reunion with new head coach Patrick Roy is officially on.
Varlamov had missed the last nine games after suffering a lower-body injury that landed him on IR, retroactive to Jan. 2. He initially suffered an injury during a Dec. 27 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins and was shelved for a few days due to maintenance. He returned for a Jan. 2 tilt against the Colorado Avalanche but had to leave the game in the first period.
The Islanders called up Ken Appleby in his place, but the veteran appeared in just a singular period during Varlamov’s absence.
It put even more strain on starting netminder Ilya Sorokin, who had started each of the last nine games after relieving the injured Varlamov on Jan. 2 in Denver. Under the heavy workload, the 2023 Vezina finalist was 3-5-1 with a .908 save percentage behind an uninspired Islanders team that struggled mightily at the start of the calendar year.
New York had lost eight of 10 games, including an overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday that resulted in the firing of head coach Lane Lambert. Roy, a Hockey Hall-of-Famer who ranks third all-time in goalie wins and first in goalie postseason wins, was brought in as his replacement.
During his first game behind the bench on Sunday night at UBS Arena, Roy watched Sorokin make 40 saves in a 3-2 Islanders overtime victory.
Varlamov’s return restores New York’s normally solid goaltending tandem. The 35-year-old was 6-4-2 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.78 goals-against average this season before his injury.
Now he reunites with Roy, who was his coach with the Colorado Avalanche for three seasons between 2013-2016. Under the former Canadiens and Avalanche goalie’s tutelage, Varlamov had his finest season as a pro in 2013-14, leading the NHL with 41 wins (41-14-6 record), while posting a .927 save percentage and a 2.41 goals-against average. He finished second in the Vezina Trophy voting that season to Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins and fourth in the Hart Trophy race, which is awarded to the NHL MVP.
“I think I have two very good goalies,” Roy said. “We’re very lucky to have that. Is it an advantage [to have familiarity with Varlamov]? I would say it’s very hard to win the Stanley Cup or go far in the playoffs if you don’t have solid goaltending. So we’re fortunate enough to have two very good goaltenders.
“It doesn’t matter who is going to be in. Night after night, we know that this position is very solid for our group.”