July 14th, 2024

Nichushkin returns to lineup for Avalanche after receiving care from player assistance program

By Pat Graham, The Associated Press on March 8, 2024.

FILE - Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin celebrates after scoring the winning goal against the Boston Bruins in a shootout of an NHL hockey game Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Denver. Nichushkin has been cleared to resume practicing with the Colorado Avalanche after receiving care from the player assistance program. The NHL and NHL Players' Association announced Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, that Nichushkin has entered the follow-up care phase.(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DENVER (AP) – Valeri Nichushkin will return to the Avalanche lineup Friday against Minnesota after receiving care through the player assistance program, Colorado coach Jared Bednar said.

It will be Nichushkin’s first game since Jan. 10. The 28-year-old Russian became the second Colorado player to take part in the joint NHLPA/NHL program this season after defenseman Samuel Girard.

Nichushkin has 22 goals and 20 assists in 40 games this season. It will be the 499th regular season game of his career Friday.

“It’s nice to have him back,” Bednar said after the morning skate. “Obviously, impact player force and when you start adding guys like that in the lineup it helps.”

The Avalanche will have quite a few new additions in the lineup Friday. They revamped their roster by acquiring forwards Casey Mittelstadt, Yakov Trenin and Brandon Duhaime, along with defenseman Sean Walker, in deals before the trade deadline.

All four are expected to play.

“Maybe tonight I’ll be looking at the game card a little bit more than normal,” Bednar cracked of learning all the new players. “I like all these guys we brought in and what they provide. We’ve got a little bit of a different mix now in our bottom-six with a couple of big guys going in there. Obviously, Mittelstadt can be a difference-maker for us, too.”

Colorado will be without forwards Zach Parise and Logan O’Connor due to ailments.

For Duhaime, his first game in an Avalanche sweater will be against a Minnesota team that traded him. He played in 62 games for the Wild this season, recording eight points and logging 66 penalty minutes.

“Definitely a weird experience for sure,” Duhaime said. “Might as well get it out of the way early.”

Nichushkin wasn’t available to Colorado from Jan. 13 to March 7 as he received care from the player assistance program. He’s a big lift for the Avalanche, leading the team with a career-high 13 power-play scores.

Nichushkin was away from the Avalanche in the playoffs last season for what the team explained at the time were personal reasons. He missed the final five postseason games of a first-round loss to Seattle.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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