Training camp and the new season always bring the hope that the team will begin fully healthy before the war of attrition takes hold. Unfortunately, the toll of a long postseason run to the Stanley Cup victory is still going to linger for the Colorado Avalanche into the 2022-23 campaign as multiple regular forwards were not able to hit the ice with the rest of the squad on day one.
Val Nichushkin's absence was pretty much expected after he had surgery on his broken foot sustained in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals and needed a couple of months to recover. Darren Helm was a mild surprise on the injured list as apparently he too required surgery for an ailment. Both Nichushkin and Helm have been able to skate on their own in red non-contact jerseys. Coach Bednar did not have a timetable for their return but it’s likely they will miss preseason action.
Darren Helm and Val Nichushkin in no-contact jerseys getting in a skate. pic.twitter.com/8JbzDvSCug— Meghan Angley (@rightbyroy) September 23, 2022
The bigger news of the week is that captain Gabe Landeskog is on the shelf too as he is still dealing with the knee injury that hampered him last season. It was a concern when he wasn’t spotted at any informal skates and fears were confirmed by Bednar once Landeskog did not appear for the first day of training camp. The fact that the Avalanche are already expecting him to miss regular season games means they have to prepare for life without yet another top-six forward.
Jared Bednar said Landeskog is still dealing with an LBI from last year and isn’t skating and has no timetable on his return. His absence is expecting to go into the start of the regular season.— Ryan Boulding (@rboulding) September 22, 2022
What happens now
In order to mitigate the losses of Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky and now Nichushkin and Landeskog for a little while the Avalanche will have to completely reshape their top two forward lines. Based on lines from the first several days of camp Artturi Lehkonen is playing left wing alongside Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. The second line is an entirely new creation with camp PTO Alex Galchenyuk and recently signed Evan Rodrigues flanking Alex Newhook getting the first crack at the second line center job. How successful this new line is will be seen in the preseason but early returns from camp practices have been positive.
There’s also always a chance some internal candidates become interim replacements, especially in the bottom six as veterans move up to fill missing shoes. That will still have to shake out in preseason if prospects such as Martin Kaut, Mikhail Maltsev, or Sampo Ranta could earn a few NHL games or if AHL veterans like Jayson Megna, Lukas Sedlak, and Charles Hudon get the call instead.