There were no great expectations for Calvin Pickard when he reported to Colorado Avalanche training camp in September, not with Vezina Trophy finalist Semyon Varlamov and recent trade acquisition Reto Berra as the top two goalies.

"I wanted to make a good impression and make a statement that I'm close and ready to play at this level," Pickard said this week.

He probably didn't do either in his one preseason appearance, a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks when he allowed four goals on 27 shots, but circumstances can change dramatically, and they certainly have for Pickard.

Varlamov has been recovering since Dec. 5 from his third groin injury, and Berra has been struggling to make saves, giving Pickard the kind of opportunity he never could have anticipated three months ago: the chance to play in the NHL on a regular basis.

Pickard, 22, is on his third recall this season from the Cleveland-based Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League and for now is the Avalanche's No. 1 goalie.

A second-round pick (No. 49) in the 2010 NHL Draft, Pickard has impressed Hall of Fame goalie and Colorado coach Patrick Roy with his competitiveness and ability to keep the Avalanche in games even during times of duress. He's faced an average of 35 shots in seven starts.

Pickard, who will start against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, SN360, TVA2) when the Avalanche open a three-game road trip, is tied with Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for the League's fifth-best save percentage (.927).

Pickard is 4-5-1 with a 2.42 goals-against average and is 4-3-1 in his past eight games with a 2.11 GAA and .936 save percentage.

"It's nice that I put in the work this summer and I just need to keep it going," he said. "If you would have told me this summer I'd play in 10 games, I'd have taken it for sure. It's great, valuable experience for me playing all these games. I hope the opportunities keep coming and I just need to keep playing well."

Pickard has been one of the few bright spots for the Avalanche (10-13-7), who are last in the Central Division after finishing first last season.