Friday was likely the last practice for the Colorado Avalanche before they head into the All-Star break.
After Saturday’s game against the Blues, they don’t play again until February 7.
When they return from the break, the team could look awfully different.
Both Bowen Byram and Josh Manson skated in full practice. They wore non-contact jerseys, but when injured players join full training, it means a comeback isn’t far off.
There was also encouraging news about Darren Helm.
“He’s starting to feel a little better,” Jared Bednar said after practice. “He could hit the ice after the break. There will be a patient schedule on this. We hope he can get on the ice coming off the break.”
The big injury is still, obviously, captain Gabriel Landeskog. While he’s not in Denver yet, he should be soon.
“I’m not sure what day he’s coming back,” Bednar said. “But I expect him to come back and hopefully hit the ice. Same deal as Helmy.”
Valery Nichushkin skated, but placed Bednar on the “controversial” list for tomorrow’s game. The Avalanche’s record without Nichushkin is significantly worse than when he is on the court.
“I think that’s pretty telling,” Bednar said.
If Nichushkin is ready to go on Saturday, it will be the first time in weeks that the Avalanche can dress 12 natural forwards.
Sam Girard is starting to heat up and find his game with eight points in his last 11 games.
After last night’s game, Bednar said he thought Girard was “awesome” and noted the intensity he’s been playing lately.
Girard believes his game is close.
“It’s good to be able to help the team,” he said after practice on Friday. “I feel like the last two or three weeks I’ve been playing the way I should.”
Playing with confidence has helped.
“I think that’s part of hockey,” he said. “When you play with confidence, everything goes your way. It’s hard to play hockey when you don’t have confidence. But like I said, I’ve just got to keep going like I’ve done the last two, three weeks.”
If Manson and Byram return after the break, the Avalanche could finally freeze the defense they penciled in over the summer. If Girard continues to play the way he is, it will just make them harder to play against.
The Avalanche look to change the lines a bit for Saturday’s game after a tough loss to the Ducks. This is how the team was arranged during training.
Arturi Lehkonen – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Evan Rodriguez – Alex Newhook – Logan O’Connor
Matt Nieto – JT Compher – Dennis Mulgin
Curtis McDermid – Ben Meyers – Andrew Cogliano
McDermid at forward could simply fill the spot left by Nichushkin’s absence, but it looks like some line adjustments will be made for the game against the Blues.