On his weekly radio hit with Altitude Sports Radio, Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar confirmed both are ready to go. Expect both, especially Lehkonen, to be eased back into the lineup and play less minutes than you would expect under normal circumstances.
Lehkonen has been out of the lineup since Nov. 10 due to a neck injury he suffered in a scary collision with Kraken defender Jamie Oleksiak. He’ll be a welcome addition to the lineup, especially in the absence of Valeri Nichushkin. Expect him to start with Ryan Johansen and Andrew Cogliano at even strength, and to play a little bit on special teams. Bednar mentioned that confidence will be something to watch with Lehkonen, in terms of how comfortable he feels taking contact after such a major injury. That’s why the team wants to ease him back in a bit.
Byram has had an up and down season on the ice, but he still has the trust of the coaching staff. Only Devon Toews averages more ice-time at even strength than Byram on the team. The interesting part of Byram’s addition will be who leaves the lineup. It would be easy for the team to remove Sam Malinski, as he can go back to the AHL without passing through waivers, but is it the right move? I expect that to be the case, but Malinski’s play has been impressive, so it’s a tough one to make.
Either way, the Avalanche are getting a little healthier heading into the All-Star break. With Lehkonen and Byram back, the only regular player they’re missing that hasn’t been ruled out for the regular season is Nichushkin.
Stay tuned to CHN for more updates after the Avalanche hold their morning skate later today.