Nichushkin of Avalanche placed in Stage 3 of NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program

DENVER — Valeri Nichushkin of the Colorado Avalanche was placed in Stage 3 of the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program on Monday.

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said he got word on the forward “sometime after pregame skate,” and talked with players as they returned to Ball Arena before their 5-1 loss to the Dallas Stars in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round.

“Yeah, it (stinks) for our team. We have to turn the page, we have to go play way better than we did today,” Bednar said. “There are still 20-plus guys in that room that care and want to win and that are here and that’s what we have to focus on. It hurts our team, no question. He’s a great player.”

Under the terms of the program, Nichushkin will be suspended without pay for a minimum of six months and then will be eligible to apply for reinstatement.

“I think at this point it is what it is. Unfortunately, that did happen,” Avalanche forward Andrew Cogliano said. “I think we’re just focusing on our job. We’re in the second round of the playoffs. This is a tough business; this is our job and we’re giving it all we’ve got.

“So I think we focus on the guys in the room. We have a lot of good people here who are trying to make a difference and at the end of the day it is what it is for us.”

Nichushkin was previously placed in the Player Assistance Program on Jan. 15. He was cleared by the NHL and NHLPA to resume practicing with the Avalanche on Feb. 26 when he entered the follow-up care phase of the program.

“Yeah, it can (deflate a team) but we’re all human, we’re all pros. It’s stuff you can’t control. You can’t really dwell on it, can’t really think about it,” said Avalanche forward Jonathan Drouin, who returned for Game 4 after missing the first eight games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a lower-body injury.

“When we heard the news, we were kind of like everyone else: We were shocked. It (stinks) but we have to move on and get ready for a game.”

Nichushkin set NHL career highs in goals (28) and points (53) in 54 games this season. Nichushkin was also tied with Zach Hyman of the Edmonton Oilers for the League lead in playoff goals (nine).

“I’ve gotten to know Val as a person and I’ve gotten to know him as one of our teammates and a player and I want what’s best for him,” Bednar said. “I want him to be happy and I want him to be content in his life, whether that’s with our team or without our team. I want the best for him and his family. I think all of our guys are the same and we hope he can find some peace and get help.”

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