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Avalanche Skate: Darren Helm Returns to Lineup, Makar Progressing



Darren Helm Avalanche

As Darren Helm left the ice at morning skate on Wednesday, he gave a head nod to Colorado Avalanche trainer Matt Sokolowski.

That was his way of saying: I’m good to go.

Helm, who has not played since Jan. 12 against Chicago, will return to the lineup for the Avalanche. He’ll center the fourth line, playing between Matt Nieto and Alex Galchenyuk.

Helm was not available to speak to the media after the optional morning skate, but Bednar said Helm is in a much better place this time around compared to the first time he tried to return. In games, they won’t limit his minutes. However, given Helm re-injured himself after only five games in January, they won’t be afraid to manage his workload the rest of the season.

“I do want to be cautious, somewhat cautious,” Bednar said after skate. “He feels way better. More explosive, looks better. The conversations with him will be on a daily basis just to see how he comes out of games, how he’s feeling. Can we manage it with taking some practice days off? Could he miss games? Sure. I don’t want him going out again. He’s such a big part to our lineup. I do think, this time around, he’s much more confident in it.”

With Evan Rodrigues out of the lineup and in concussion protocol, Alex Newhook will move up to the second line. He’ll play with J.T. Compher and Valeri Nichushkin. Denis Malgin, who finished last game on the top line, will stay there. A big opportunity for the 26 year old Swiss.

One player who is not quite ready to return is Cale Makar. The reigning Norris Trophy winner was one of five skaters to take part in the optional morning skate, but he will not play against the Penguins.

“He felt much better today,” Bednar said of Makar. “A little bit sore yesterday, much better today. So I still have him as day-to-day. It was a question mark for today. We think it’s just better off not to go again, and then we’ll evaluate for Friday.”

Other news and notes from morning skate…

  • Erik Johnson was one of the skaters who was on the ice. He looks real close to returning.
  • Evan Rodrigues was back on the ice already in a red, non-contact jersey. He’ll go through the protocol like Makar did last month.
  • Alex Galchenyuk also took the skate, and I spoke to him after the session. Look for a story on him this weekend.
  • Avalanche coach Jared Bednar discussed his contract extension at length, and I’ll have something up on that tomorrow.

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