The Avalanche on Friday got its head coach back from COVID protocol but Jared Bednar will be without another key player in Saturday’s game against visiting St. Louis.
In addition to star center Nathan MacKinnon (COVID protocol) and linemate Gabe Landeskog (suspension), Bednar said second-line winger Valeri Nichushkin will not play Saturday. He is “week-to-week” with an upper-body injury, sustained Wednesday in the 4-2 opening-night win against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Forwards Darren Helm and Andre Burakovsky also didn’t practice Friday due to minor injuries but Bednar said they both are probable against the Blues. Helm attempted to practice before leaving before the first drill.
MacKinnon, who had a positive test Monday and missed the opener, also tested positive on Thursday, Bednar said, and Friday’s test won’t be known until Saturday.
“Holding pattern,” Bednar said of MacKinnon. “He’s asymptomatic, feels good. Needs a couple negative tests for him to come back. Otherwise, it’s 10 days.”
If MacKinnon is out the full 10 days, he could miss two of the three games in a road trip that begins Tuesday at Washington. The Avs also play at Florida on Thursday and at Tampa Bay on Saturday, Oct. 23.
The Avalanche is also currently missing top-pair defenseman Devon Toews and backup goalie Pavel Francouz. Both are on injured reserve. Bednar said Toews (offseason shoulder surgery) is expected to travel with the team and possibly be cleared during the trip.
The Avs are expected to recall multiple forwards from the AHL’s Colorado Eagles for Saturday’s game.
“It’s certainly an opportunity for other guys to step up and see what our team is made of,” Bednar said of the injuries, COVID issues, and Landeskog’s two-game suspension that begins Saturday. “We got some young guys in here who are anxious to get more ice time, opportunity, and this is a good opportunity for them to do that. We’re going to need guys to step up. It’s a long year. So it’s not life or death. But I want to see our team play the right way, improve on some of the things we did the other night.”
Bednar, who had a positive COVID test on Oct. 8, said he watched Wednesday’s opener at his home, where he had two floors to quarantine. He said the Avs could have won easily if they finished the way they started.
“Great start, great energy, worth ethic, skating — all the things you need to have success were there, especially the first 30 minutes of the game,” he said. “We mismanaged the puck a little bit in the second half of the game and it cost us some scoring chances against, some goals against. I think (goalie Darcy) Kuemper was outstanding in net when he needed him to be. There’s some things there, for sure, that we showed our guys and have to clean up.”
He added: “Managing the puck better than we did in that game would have given us an easy victory, I think, but we kind of let them back into it and gave them some life.”
Footnotes. Saturday’s game will be the season-opener for the Blues. … Before the game at 7 p.m., the Avalanche will have an hour-long ceremony for late general manager Pierre Lacroix, who died in December to a COVID-related illness. Former players such as Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, Milan Hejduk are expected to be in attendance.
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