The view from the top opened up a whole new world for Pavel Francouz.
While recovering from a lower-body injury, the Avalanche backup goaltender has watched home games from upstairs at Ball Arena, rather than from his usual station on the bench when he’s on the active roster.
“It kind of looks like a video game from there,” Francouz mused Wednesday after an optional skate. “Because you see there’s open spots, and guys making plays. It really looks different from the view on the ice.”
After soaking in the new perspective, Francouz is healed and ready to potentially start Thursday (6:30 p.m. MT) when the Avs (20-16-3) face Chicago, coach Jared Bednar said.
The longtime No. 2 netminder dealt with an illness in December and then the injury, which landed him on IR after the holiday break but had been bugging him since before Christmas. The Avalanche relied heavily on Alexandar Georgiev, who has started 12 consecutive games with a .906 save percentage and 2.75 goals allowed per game during that period.
Bednar generally prefers not to stretch his goalies too thin, but Francouz’s absence was a microcosm of the team’s injury-related depth woes that have had ripple effects throughout the roster. Defenseman Cale Makar has surpassed 30 minutes of ice time in three consecutive games, after playing only six 30-minute games in his career before this season.
Whether it’s Georgiev starts or a skater taking frequent shifts, Bednar said the strain is managed via a mix of him determining what the team needs vs. the player telling him when it’s getting to be too much.
“Depending on the game and how they go. Obviously offensive guys play more and are relied upon more when you’re playing catch-up hockey, which we’ve been doing a lot here recently,” Bednar said. “But I’ve talked to them about long-term plan and how I want to manage it going forward if we can get our game back in order.”
Francouz being ready to play for the first time in one month is a start. He never worried that it might be a long-term injury, but “it’s been a tough two weeks for me,” he said. “And I was bouncing back between a couple things.”
Learning from his new vantage point was a silver lining, at least. Francouz gained new perspective on opposing power plays and said he feels more prepared for penalty kill now.
“It looks like a completely different game from up-top,” he said. “So I was really surprised because I didn’t see an NHL game from this view, and it really looks different. So it was kind of nice seeing the game from this different perspective.”
Malgin week-to-week; Nichushkin’s hurdle is putting on skates
Recent trade acquisition Denis Malgin is week-to-week with an upper-body injury, Bednar said. Valeri Nichushkin did an individual routine on the ice without skates Wednesday, practicing his shot with skills coach Shawn Allard. Nichushkin has done the skate-less routine multiple times recently while recovering from a lingering ankle injury. He won’t make the trip to Chicago.
“He’s been testing it in the skate,” Bednar said. “We’re trying to give it some time to calm down, so when he comes out, he comes back for good. … He’s been working hard on his conditioning off the ice. He’s able to do everything. It’s just when he puts the boot on that it’s giving him trouble. It could happen as early as tomorrow. It could be weeks. I don’t know.”