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

DENVER (AP) — Valeri Nichushkin returned to the Colorado Avalanche lineup Friday against Minnesota after receiving care through the player assistance program.

It was Nichushkin’s first game since Jan. 10. The 29-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. He played in the 499th regular-season game of his career Friday.

“It’s nice to have him back,” Colorado coach Jared 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 had 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 were in the lineup.

“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 was without forwards Zach Parise and Logan O’Connor due to ailments.

For Duhaime, his first game in an Avalanche sweater was 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. He was on the second line with Mittelstadt and Jonathan Drouin.

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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