Friday was likely the last Colorado Avalanche practice before they head into their All-Star break.
After Saturday’s game against the Blues, they don’t play again until Feb. 7.
When they return from break, the team could look awfully different.
Both Bowen Byram and Josh Manson skated in the full practice. They wore non-contact jerseys, but when injured players join the full practice, it means a return isn’t far off.
There was encouraging news on Darren Helm as well.
“He’s starting to feel a little bit better,” Jared Bednar said after practice. “He could be hitting the ice after break. There’ll be a patient timeline on that. We’re hoping that he’s going to be able to get on the ice coming out of the break.”
The big injury is still, obviously, Captain Gabriel Landeskog. While he’s not in Denver yet, he should be soon.
“I’m not sure which day he’s getting back,” Bednar said. “But I expect him to be back and hopefully hitting the ice. Same kind of deal as Helm.”
Valeri Nichushkin did not skate, but he was listed as “questionable” for tomorrow’s game by Bednar. The Avalanche record without Nichushkin is significantly worse than when he’s in the lineup.
“I think it’s pretty telling,” Bednar said.
If Nichushkin is good to go on Saturday, it would be the first time in weeks the Avalanche have been able to dress 12 natural forwards.
With eight points in his last 11 games, Sam Girard is starting to heat up and find his game.
After last night’s game, Bednar said he thought Girard was “great” and mentioned the intensity he’s been playing with of late.
Girard thinks his game is coming along.
“It’s good to be able to help the team,” he said after practice on Friday. “I feel like the last two or three weeks, I’ve been playing the way I should.”
Playing with confidence has helped.
“I think that’s a part of hockey,” he said. “When you play with confidence, everything goes your way. It’s hard to play hockey when your confidence is not there. But like I said, I just have to keep going like I did the last two, three weeks.”
If Manson and Byram return after the break, the Avalanche might finally be able to ice the defense they had penciled in over the summer again. If Girard keeps playing the way he has, it will just make them more difficult to play against.
The Avalanche look like they’re going to be changing up the lines a bit for the Saturday game after a tough loss to the Ducks. This is how the team lined up at practice:
Artturi Lehkonen – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Evan Rodrigues – Alex Newhook – Logan O’Connor
Matt Nieto – J.T. Compher – Denis Malgin
Kurtis MacDermid – Ben Meyers – Andrew Cogliano
MacDermid practicing as a forward could have been just to fill the spot up front left by Nichushkin’s absence, but it does appear as though some line adjustments will be made for the game against the Blues.