Avalanche coach Jared Bednar provided insight on forward Valeri Nichushkin’s path back to playing.
The short version: It’s anyone’s guess when his surgically repaired ankle will be ready for game action.
Reporters watched Nichushkin Wednesday at the team’s practice facility, on-ice puck handling in sneakers, with the star Russian forward unavailable for Thursday’s road test in Chicago. Nichushkin has already missed 24 of the team’s 39 games this season with reoccurring ankle issues.
"He's been testing it in the skate,” Bednar said. “We're trying to give it some time to calm down, so when he comes out, he comes back for good. Obviously, he came back to play once (and) it wasn't good enough to continue. So, it's still been bothering him.
"(He's) day-to-day because I don't know. He could jump on the ice tomorrow. He's been working hard on his conditioning off the ice. He's able to do everything. It's just when he puts the boot on that it's giving him trouble. It could happen as early as tomorrow. It could be weeks. I don't know."
Nichushkin recorded seven goals and nine assists through his 15 game appearances. He signed an 8-year, $49-million contract with Colorado in the offseason.
It’s been a difficult few weeks for backup goalie Pavel Francouz, between a non-COVID illness and lower body injury that held him out of the lineup. But he also discovered a silver lining.
“It looks like a completely different game from up top (of the arena),” Francouz said. “I was really surprised because I didn’t see an NHL game from this view. It really looks different. It was kind of nice.”
Francouz is available to play Thursday, Bednar confirmed, and will likely be in net against a struggling Chicago team. Alexandar Georgiev has started the past 12 consecutive games for the Avalanche. Francouz is 4-5-0 with a 2.80 goals-against average and .913 save percentage this season.
What’s next: The Avalanche (20-16-3) travel Thursday to face the Chicago Blackhawks, 6:30 p.m. Thursday (Altitude TV) at the United Center.