The return of Artturi Lehkonen is nigh for the Colorado Avalanche.
Tuesday was an optional skate for the Avalanche, with only six skaters on the ice. It was the first time we’ve seen Lehkonen take some real contact, though.
In one drill along the boards, Lehkonen was taking plenty of contact from Avalanche defenseman Caleb Jones, as he tried to protect the puck in his feet. He then fought off Jones to get to the net for a shot on net. This is what Lehkonen wanted, according to Jared Bednar, and is the next step in the recovery process.
With a five game road trip coming up, the team will not be leaving the Finnish forward behind.
“He is coming on the trip,” Bednar said on Tuesday. “He’s starting to make some good progress. Took some contact today from Jonesy. Things are going good. He’s coming on the trip.”
Lehkonen’s return changes the complexion of Colorado’s lineup. With Drouin playing as well as he has, I see Bednar going back to the lines that he started the season with. That means Lehkonen and Valeri Nichushkin flanking Ryan Johansen. While that trio didn’t score many goals together, their underlying numbers were incredibly strong. What else would you expect from a line with two puck hounds on the wing?
That can only work if Drouin keeps up his play, but he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down yet. He played 28 minutes on Monday and created several chances with his vision.
Skills Coach Change
Just prior to training camp, there was a surprise change in the Avalanche staff. Shawn Allard, who had been the skills coach for several years, stepped away to be with his family. Colorado replaced him with Toby Petersen, the former Colorado College forward and someone who has years of experience as a coach.
On Tuesday, I asked Bednar if it’s been a smooth transition, or if there have been differences between how the two coaches work.
“Both guys are unique. A little bit different in their approach, but they’re both very good at what they do,” Bednar said. “Shawn is a skills guy, helps with skating. He’s really innovative with the things he does. Toby’s been a coach. Bigger role in working with individuals, and showing them clips. Breaking down certain guys that I’ll give him, and Ray and Pratter will give him. So if I’m coaching a guy like Colton, and I’m working with him on something. I’ve got to keep going on the 5-on-5 work, then I’ll hand Colton off to Toby and tell him some of the things I’m seeing when I’m watching the game. Then he can cut up his video, sit down with him, show him where he needs to be structurally. He’s been a coach for years. And then still go out and build drills, and implement different situations in the skates where him and others like him can work on that particular skill that he needs to improve on. Get some reps in there so they feel confident to be able to take it to a game.”
Other News And Notes
- Yes, Gabriel Landeskog is still with the team and in the area, but there has been no confirmation as to whether or not he’s begun skating or anything like that.
- Bednar discussed the philosophy behind signing NCAA free agents as opposed to AHL pro’s who have been in the game for a while.
- “I liked all those signings. You can go out and sign big free agents in the American League, guys that have played a little bit in the NHL and haven’t made it. They all have reasons why they’re not sticking in the NHL, but you get some of the college guys. You don’t know where their ceiling is. They’ve never played pro, so maybe their ceiling is higher, right? All those guys had as significant amount of success with their college teams.”
- The Avalanche probably have more off-days or optional practices than most teams, but that’s because Bednar has built a trust with the core that they’re going to take care of themselves on those off-days and be ready for games.
- Bednar had high praise for Devon Toews.
- “He’s had an awesome segment. We get underlying numbers on all our guys. He’s been outstanding over the last, grouping it together, the last 11 games.”