Seattle Kraken foe, Valeri Nichushkin

Kraken – Avalanche Line-ups; Nichushkin’s Absence

Both the Kraken and the Avalanche are missing top-6 wingers; Jared McCann for Seattle, injured in Game-4 following a late hit by Colorado defenseman Cale Makar that earned the blueliner a one-game suspension, and Valeri Nichushkin for Colorado, gone for personal reasons.

The Denver Post reported on Thursday that Nichushkin’s absence is related to an incident at the team hotel in Seattle in the wee hours of the morning prior to Game-3 on Saturday in which a Russian woman visiting his room was so intoxicated she had to be transported by ambulance to the hospital. Her identity has not been revealed nor has the nature of her relationship with the Avalanche player.

The paper also reported that there were “no criminal interactions” related to the incident and Nichushkin is not away from the team for disciplinary reasons. The story also stated: Seattle Police Department spokesperson Judinna Gulpan said there is no criminal investigation stemming from the incident.

In his post-morning skate media availability on Friday, Bednar reiterated that Nichushkin is away for personal reasons and not for disciplinary measures and would be welcomed back to play. He won’t be playing in Game-6 as he wasn’t as morning skate this morning and is not presently with the team.

Kraken On Ice

The Kraken have been very effective at limiting any version of Colorado depth scoring in this series. While Seattle has featured 13 different goal scorers through five games, the Avalanche have featured just eight, with eight of their 14 goals coming from two top line players, Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon.

Nichushkin had one of those 14 and it was a big one, the game-tying goal in the Game-2 Avalanche comeback win in Denver on Thursday, March 20th. The man they call “Nuke”, he’s a big forward at 6-foot-4 and 210-pounds, Nichushkin helped turn the tide, scoring just 48-seconds after Artturi Lehkonen had tallied during the 2nd period of the 3-2 victory.

Much had been made of Colorado head coach Jared Bednar moving Rantanen off MacKinnon’s top line following the Game-1 loss. When Rantanen moved down to the right of center J.T. Compher on the second line, Nichushkin moved from the right side to the left.

With him out of the line-up, shallow scoring becomes even shallower. The Avalanche have not produced a single goal from their 3rd or 4th line in this series. They have two goals from defenseman.

“We’ve gone stretches without depth scoring throughout the course of the year and have been highly successful,” Bednar told us. “So I’m not focused on their bottom six or on how many forwards have chipped in on the offensive side of it. We’re taking a different approach.

“We feel like we haven’t played to our ability and capability through the course of this series,” he continued. “We’ve seen flashes of it, but when it comes to full games and playing the way we need to play to have success with the line-up that we have, we haven’t done that consistently enough. So we liked period two and three of Game-2, we ended up winning a hockey game, and we liked our third game, so we feel like if we go do what we have to do tonight, to the best of our ability, we give ourselves a good chance to win.”

Kraken And Avalanche Updates

Nichushkin is considered a huge key to the Avalanche’s plans moving forward, playing in the first year of an eight-year contract that pays him an average of $6.1-million per season.

Hard to say if his absence has taken an emotional or psychological toll on his teammates. Probably not, as guys are all business once they hit the ice and they expect others to “step up” in any player’s absence regardless of the reason.

The same will have to occur along the Avalanche blueline. Bednar confirmed that defenseman Josh Manson, who left Game-5 after two periods, will not be available tonight for Colorado.

Kraken rookie Tye Kartye, who scored his first NHL goal in the Game-5 victory, is expected to play a similar role Friday night alongside Jordan Eberle and Matty Beniers. The Kraken will remain without McCann, who led the team in the regular season with 40 goals and also contributed 30 assists.

No change in net; Phillip Grubauer for the Kraken and Alexandar Georgiev for the Avalanche.

Puck drop for Game-6 Friday night is scheduled for a few minutes after 7 pm pacific at Climate Pledge Arena.


Valeri Nichushkin (13) celebrates his goal in Game-2 against the Kraken.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.