Big Val: A Difference Maker
The Colorado Avalanche have been down quite a few players this season. This isn’t anything new to the team and they’ve always had the next man up mentality. Valeri Nichushkin was out with injury after the season opener. He missed from October 14th till November 10th. Almost a month of hockey – gone.
The Avs had just lost back-to-back games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and things weren’t looking good, to say the least. The lineup was constantly changing and the team couldn’t find their groove.
That was, until Big Val returned to the lineup on November 11th against the Vancouver.
Nichushkin had a power-play goal in his return and the Avs beat the Canucks 7-1. This was the game when things started to turn around for the team and Nichushkin.
The Avs would go on a season-high six-game win streak and Nichushkin would have six points in those six games. The former first-round draft pick of the Dallas Stars is now officially off to a hot start, adding an element to the team that was clearly missed in those first ten games. He’s got 12 points in 13 games overall, heading into Wednesday’s game in New York against the Rangers.
The biggest element he’s added is stability to the second line. On a line with Kadri and Burakovsky, he brings a physical game, scoring touch as well as consistent defensive play. As of now he has 7 goals, 5 assists and is a plus-5. He is halfway to his career high in goals and 22 points away from his career high in points. The key to success is everyone staying healthy. When this line is together, they play well and have a solid rapport.
What also stands out with Nichushkin is his penalty-kill ability. A great example of this is the shorthanded goal against the Montreal Canadians a few nights ago. Logan O’Connor, who is also incredible on the penalty kill, kept the pressure on and stole the puck. Nichushkin jumped up into the play at the exact time he needed to and buried it. Little things like this just didn’t seem to happen as often with him out of the lineup.
As the injury bug continues to hit, there always seems to be one guy the team can rely on and that’s Valeri Nichushkin. He has five points in the last five games as the team starts to get healthy again. This could be a big year for the big guy, whose number is: