The Colorado Avalanche will be without some key players for the next little while, according to head coach Jared Bednar. As Peter Baugh of The Athletic tweets from Bednar’s media availability today, Valeri Nichushkin underwent ankle surgery and will be out a month, while Bowen Byram is week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Samuel Girard, who is also missing, is listed as day-to-day.
Nichushkin, who was signed to an eight-year, $49MM extension this offseason, has turned into a legitimate star in the league over the last year. After some strong defensive results in his first two seasons with the Avalanche, his offense spiked in 2021-22 to tally 25 goals and 52 points in 62 games. Even more effective in the team’s Stanley Cup championship run, he came back this season further improved.
Through seven games, Nichushkin had seven goals and 12 points, while playing more than 20 minutes a game thanks to his excellent defensive contributions. Bednar could put him on the ice in basically any situation and without Gabriel Landeskog to start the year, he was the third musketeer with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Despite now missing four games, Nichushkin still sits fourth in Colorado scoring, only behind those two and Cale Makar. His seven goals are still tied for the team lead.
Now, the team has to move forward without the big Russian forward, for at least another month’s worth of games. Losing Byram as well who was logging nearly 21 minutes a night is another tough blow.
The 21-year-old defenseman seemed completely recovered from the concussion issues that plagued his early career, and was contributing in all situations for the Avalanche. Not only was Byram part of the three-defenseman powerplay that the team was using but he was even taking shifts on the penalty kill and had a shorthanded goal. Turning into a legitimate force, another stretch out of the lineup due to injury is poor timing for the young defenseman. Not only will he take some time to get back up to speed but this is Byram’s platform year, with restricted free agency scheduled for next summer. Missing games will hurt his negotiation, though he will not be arbitration eligible and thus doesn’t have a ton of leverage anyway.
The Avalanche are back in action Thursday evening against the Nashville Predators, the first of a three-game homestand.