BUFFALO, N.Y. – Joonas Donskoi is having the best offensive season of his five-year NHL career. His 14 goals entering Tuesday’s game here in Buffalo already tied his career high, in only a little more than half as many games played. And yet, Joonas Donskoi is a fourth-liner right now.
That’s the kind of depth the Colorado Avalanche has this season up front. Donskoi spent most of his time in a top-six role with the Avs, earning his keep with good production. But then came that concussion in January at Madison Square Garden, and when Donskoi returned, his top-six job was taken by Valeri Nichushkin. Donskoi had a strong game in the Avs’ 6-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, assisting on a goal and playing strong two-way hockey.
But Donskoi figures to be a depth player for the time being moving forward, because Jared Bednar certainly won’t be able to demote Nichushkin the way he’s playing.
Nichushkin, whose NHL career appeared in doubt prior to this season, had a goal and two assists in the Avs’ easy win at Keybank Center. He’s having HIS best season of his career, too. Just don’t try to talk to him about it.
“No, not tonight,” Nichushkin said, when I tried to ask him about his performance. “Thank you for understanding.”