Colorado Avalanche will get Valeri Nichushkin back sooner than expected

Colorado Avalanche winger Valeri Nichushkin is out of the Players Assistance Program, which is great news at this point in time.
Vegas Golden Knights v Colorado Avalanche
Vegas Golden Knights v Colorado Avalanche / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

While there has been plenty of speculation regarding what the Colorado Avalanche will do at or before the 2023-24 NHL trade deadline, the team has received great news and clarity on one of its stars, as Valeri Nichushkin has returned to the ice following a stay in the league’s Players Assistance Program. It’s been a struggle without Nichushkin this year, but he’s nearing his return.

During the team's morning skate on Monday, Nichushkin was on the team’s fourth line. That suggests to me that it might be a few games before he returns to game action. It wouldn’t surprise me if the reasoning would be that he has to get back into hockey shape and get his feet underneath him again.

Head coach Jared Bednar said that Nichushkin would not travel with the team during their two-game away stint vs the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators. They face the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. All of these games are pretty important as the race for the top spot in the Western division is a tight one. Colorado is behind Dallas (78 points) and the Winnipeg Jets (77 points) in the standings with 75 points.

Here’s how important Nichushkin is to the Avalanche: Last season with Nichushkin on the ice, the team was 39-8-6. Without him, they were 12-16-1. This season, with him, they are 26-11-3 and without him, they are 9-8-2.

There are only 23 games remaining in the regular season and the Colorado Avalanche should find a boost in their play with Nichushkin in the lineup. Their play has been a bit frustrating to watch lately, including their long road trip recently. I’m not going to put all the pressure on one player (Nichushkin), but they better find a spark when he officially returns to the ice for games. They need a spark.

In 40 games this season, Nichushkin has 22 goals and 20 assists. He has a plus-minus of +9 and averages 21:48 of ice time per game. He also has 13 powerplay goals on the year, which is huge. That’s something that this team desperately needs.