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Avalanche Room: Reaction To Nichushkin News, ‘Atrocious’ Game

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avalanche Makar

So much happened to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday that the day seemed at least 48 hours long.

It all started off so well. The Avalanche were set to get Jonathan Drouin back in their lineup, and hope had been restored that they could tie this series up. It went sour quickly.

Word started to spread that Valeri Nichushkin would miss Game Four. It turned out to be much worse than that, as he’s been suspended for a minimum of six months and is back in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. When warmups started, we found out Devon Toews would not be available in the game. The Avalanche were likely shocked, and played like it, with a first period that was as bad as we’ve seen in years.

In a playoff game, there are no excuses, and their coach could barely find the words to explain it afterwards.

As you’d expect, a lot of questions after the loss were about Nichushkin, how the Avalanche found out, and what impact it had on the game. Bednar said a lot, and sure did make it seem like we may have seen the last of Nichushkin in an Avalanche uniform, but there will be plenty of time to get to that.

For now, Colorado is on the brink of elimination. Watch the availabilities of Cale Makar and Andrew Cogliano, and read what Bednar had to say after the Stars whooped the Avalanche by a score of 5-1.

Avalanche Defenseman Cale Makar

Avalanche Forward Andrew Cogliano

Avalanche Head Coach Jared Bednar

WHEN DID YOU LEARN ABOUT VAL/YOUR REACTION?

“I learned about it earlier today, like sometime after pregame skate. Obviously not happy about it, but it is what it is. It’s out of our control.”

DID THAT HAVE AN IMPACT ON YOUR TEAM?

“No, I don’t think so. We’re not using that as an excuse. We lose a good player in Val today. We (also) add a good player in Drouin. And he played well tonight, (Drouin). I thought for the amount of time he had off, I thought that he had good legs and played hard and played well. I think that’s not an excuse for our team, for us.”

NO ENERGY UNTIL THE THIRD?

“We looked frozen in the first period. We were not moving. We were not skating. It looked like we were exhausted and we should be in the rested team. I thought we got better in the second, but it was still a struggle. Slow pace, slow thinking, lack of execution. I didn’t feel like the guys were not trying, but just everything felt like it was a struggle tonight.”

TWO YEARS IN A ROW – HOW CAN THAT DEFLATE A TEAM?

“I am not going … we’re not going to use it as an excuse. I mean, we can’t and we won’t. We treat it just like (Logan O’Connor) – injured, done for the year. You get news like that all the time. You continue to play with the players that you have. We have the ability to play a heck of a lot better than we did today, regardless of any news like that. I can’t think of news that that you can’t work through. We have to be mentally tough. I honestly don’t think that is an excuse. I don’t.”

WE KNOW THERE’S A HUMAN ELEMENT, BUT HOW MUCH DID VAL LET DOWN THIS TEAM?

“Well, I’m not gonna go there. Val is obviously struggling with something. I have two thoughts. Yeah, it sucks for our team. We’ve got to turn the page. We’ve got to go play way better than we did today. There’s still 20-plus guys in that room that care and want to win and that are here. That’s what we have to focus on. It hurts our team. There’s no question. He’s a great player.

And the second one is I’ve gotten to know Val as a person and I’ve gotten to know him as one of our teammates and I want what’s best for him. I want him to be happy and I want him to be content in his life, whether that is with our team or not with our team. I want the best for him and his family. I think all of our guys are the same. We hope that he can find some peace and get help. That’s the other side of it. Hockey is not life and death, even though we treat it like it is. Val is a big priority. And our team is another one. Now they are separated. They’re not together. He’s done for six months plus, whatever that looks like. So we treat it like an injured player who is not able to play for us, like OC or like (Gabe Landeskog). We have to worry about the guys who are on the ice and able to play for us.”

HOW WAS THE NEWS DELIVERED TO YOUR PLAYERS?

“I talked to them when everyone got back to the rink. Guys are here early so we did it as early as we could. They started getting some news in the afternoon. Some guys were gone from the rink and some guys were still trickling around, so some guys knew. We did the best we can under the circumstances.”

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE MOOD IN THE DRESSING ROOM WHEN YOU DELIVERED THE NEWS:

“Well, I mean, I think the guys certainly are going to be disappointed. They know how valuable Val is to the team but you know, like we talked about in our meeting like it’s one player out another really good player coming in. Like Dru is a heck of a hockey player. He’s done a heck of a job for us all year long and he did again tonight you know. So it’s one lineup change. You lose Toews before the game because of sickness and then you know, it’s some more bad news. So obviously big players for us, but again like the guys that played tonight, us as a group, as a whole, like we’ve got better than that. That was our worst game of the series. Like I said it looked like it was a struggle for our guys. It looked like we lacked energy and looked like we were the really tired team and they were the fresh team and you know I don’t have the answer for that. I wish I did.”

ON ALLOWING FIRST GOAL IN EVERY GAME OF THE SERIES:

“Yeah, I can’t group all the games together. That’s just not my mentality. Like Game 1, we were bad out the gate. They took it to us. And then Game 2, I thought we had a really good period. We had a couple of really good chances. They had a couple of really good chances. Game 1, they happened to score on three of their first five chances, you know. We scored on four later in the game. So like scoring first, I think it’s important in this series, like if I could just tell them ‘hey, you got to have a good start and score first.’ It’s not that easy. So we battled back in Game 1. Game 2 I liked our first period and we fall down 1-0. You know, our second period was trouble. Game 3 at home. I thought we were dominant in the first period. I That’s what I thought seeing the eye test. That’s what I thought after watching the video. We had like a lot of chances in the first, we have three power plays it was a little stale. And we don’t score right, so we ended up getting scored on later on and we’re down again. Tonight, we were atrocious. So it’s two of the four bad starts, two out of four good starts but we didn’t capitalize at some key times and it’s been a struggle for us here a little bit.”

COMING OFF WORST GAME OF SERIES, WHERE’S THE CONFIDENCE LEVEL FOR GAME 5 AND HOW DO YOU GET THE CONFIDENCE LEVEL UP WITH THESE GUYS:

“So I thought we did a good job as a team and after talking to the guys. They were down after the last game and every guy takes a different length of time to turn the page. Everyone has their own process they go through. Coaches, players, trainers, everybody involved. But I felt like we were in a good spot today at morning skate and ready to go. Shows you how much I know, I guess, because it wasn’t very good. So I mean you gotta reset and do it again. You have no choice. I mean, it doesn’t matter how you get to this point. You fgotta fight. You know that’s what you have to do. If you look at the Carolina game, like I consider the first three games all very close games, right? They’re one goal games with empty nets. And, you know, it doesn’t matter if you get blown out or you lose by one. It’s still a loss. And Carolina and the Rangers go in and it’s 3-1 today and Carolina bounces back with their best game of the series and they get a result now the pressure is going to be on New York and that’s the way I look at this. We got to go in and and play a really good hockey game and we got to get a result and then it comes back here. Pressure can swing a little bit. Like we didn’t do a very good job of handling that pressure today for whatever reason, and we’ll dig into it tomorrow, but I don’t know the answer just yet.”

DO YOU SEE A SCENARIO WHERE VAL AND THE TEAM COULD BE TOGETHER AGAIN:

“I have no idea.”

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