Avalanche Skate: Annunen On Extension, Nichushkin Missing

Colorado Hockey Now

When the Colorado Avalanche take on the New York Rangers Thursday night, they may be missing a big piece of their forward core.

Or they might run it back with the same lineup. We might not know until right before puck drop.

Valeri Nichushkin, arguably the most important forward on the team not named Nathan MacKinnon, was absent from practice on Wednesday. While Sam Girard and Joel Kiviranta were both missing due to illness, Nichushkin was missing for a different reason.

“Val’s got a little something going on, so we’ll just see tomorrow,” Avalanche Head Coach Jared Bednar said. “It’s not going to be long-term, but it’s something that could possibly keep him out.”

Bednar confirmed it’s a lower-body issue, so I guess we’ll find out at morning skate what’s going on. In Nichushkin’s absence, Brandon Duhaime practiced with Casey Mittelstadt and Artturi Lehkonen.

One night after making 25 saves against the Montreal Canadiens, Justus Annunen discussed the two-year extension he signed earlier that day.

“I want to stay here, and well, I guess they want to keep me,” the goaltender told the media. “I’m happy to hopefully be here the next two years. You never know, but hopefully I get more opportunities and I can earn my spot here every day.”

It’s not usual for the Avalanche to extend someone like this in-season, so I asked Annunen how something like that makes a player feel.

“For me, it’s easier to know for the next couple of years what I have, and can focus on the hockey, and trying to do my best every day,” he said.

Other News And Notes

  • The Avalanche know exactly how players they acquire are off the ice before they acquire them. Take Yakov Trenin as an example. He met with Nikolai Kovalenko for dinner the other night, and has been tight with Nichushkin since coming here. That doesn’t surprise the Avalanche.
    • “We dig into all our guys. Everyone that we’re going to think about trading for, we try to get all the backstory and history that they have. Get to know the player as a person and what type of character they have. It’s really important to our recruiting process.”
  • Speaking of Kovalenko, he has not been cleared to skate with the Eagles yet due to the injury he suffered in his final KHL game. Torpedo’s GM confirmed to me that it’s a sprained knee, but didn’t say anything beyond that.

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