AVALANCHE

Avalanche get big news as Valeri Nichushkin takes important step

Feb 26, 2024, 10:50 AM

Colorado Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin is one step closer to re-joining the team.

Nichushkin has been in the Player Assistance Program of the NHL and NHLPA since Jan. 15, but is making progress. The league announced on Monday morning that Nichushkin is cleared to return to practice with the Avs, but not yet for games.

“Nichushkin has been cleared to resume practicing with the team and has entered the follow-up care phase of the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program. Nichushkin has not yet been cleared to return to game action,” the NHL said in the statement. “Nichushkin’s care continues to be administered pursuant to the player assistance program.”

Nichushkin vowed to address his issues “once and for all” when he left the team in the middle of January. He also missed five playoff games against the Kraken last season as the Avalanche lost their first-round series to Seattle in seven games. It marked the end of their Stanley Cup defense from 2022.

Before he sought treatment last month, Nichushkin was having a monster season. He’s posted 42 points by netting 22 goals and adding 20 assists. Even with the games missed thus far, he’s still fourth on the team in points behind Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar.

The Avalanche desperately need Nichushkin back, as they don’t look like the same team without him on the ice. Colorado is just 3-5-2 since the All-Star break and seems to have hit a wall. They’ve struggled on the power play, a spot Nichushkin can make a big impact.

Still, at 35-19-5 the Avs are just three points back of the Dallas Stars for first-place in the Central Division. They also trail the Winnipeg Jets by two points.

The Avalanche return to action on Tuesday night at Ball Arena against the Stars, so it’s obviously a massive game. Valeri Nichushkin likely won’t be out there, but the clock has been started on his return. And that’s big for Colorado’s chances of making a deep playoff run.

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