Colorado Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin deflected questions Thursday concerning his sudden absence from a playoff series last season for what the team explained at the time was personal reasons.
Nichushkin missed the final five postseason games of a first-round loss to Seattle. In a brief chat following the opening of training camp, Nichushkin thanked "everybody" for their support. But when asked if there was anything he wanted to clear up about what was reported last spring, he responded: "We already talked about that. Family reasons."
In the afternoon before Game 3 on April 22, officers responded to a crisis call at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle, according to a report from the Seattle Police Department obtained by The Associated Press at the time. A 28-year-old woman was in an ambulance when officers arrived, and medics were told to speak with Avalanche team physician Dr. Bradley Changstrom to gather more details.
The report said Changstrom told officers that team employees found the woman when they were checking in on Nichushkin. Changstrom told officers the woman appeared to be heavily intoxicated — too intoxicated to have left the hotel "in a ride share or cab service," and requested EMS assistance.
When approached in the ambulance by officers, the woman stated she was from Russia but born in Ukraine. She was transported to Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, according to the report.
"I know you guys want to find something there but it's nothing really interesting," Nichushkin said. "I think we should close it. It's a new season right now. We have to focus on that."
The 28-year-old Nichushkin said "we both decided" for him to be away from the team for the remainder of the playoff series against the Kraken in which the Avalanche lost in seven games.
"We make the next round I probably play," said Nichushkin, who's from Chelyabinsk, Russia. "I want to say thank you everybody for supporting me."
Only two Colorado players scored more playoff goals than Nichushkin's nine during the 2022 Stanley Cup title run, when he had 15 points in 20 games. He had 47 points in 53 games last season and scored a goal early in the first round before leaving the team.
After already losing Nazem Kadri to free agency and without injured captain Gabriel Landeskog, Nichushkin's absence two games into the playoffs last year depleted the Avalanche's depth and contributed to the seven-game loss to Seattle.
Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon said the team has welcomed back Nichushkin with open arms.
"We just know he's going to be here for us and he's such an amazing player," MacKinnon said Wednesday night on the eve of camp. "We all love him and yeah, everything's good."
Still, his departure did affect an Avalanche team trying to defend their title.
"Obviously you have a group of guys going into the playoffs — a super tight-knit group, and then something like that happens and everybody just, kind of all their minds go astray," said defenseman Cale Makar, who sat out practice Thursday as he works his way back from a lower-body injury. "You don't really feel like you're all together at that point again."
Makar added the team has turned the page.
"We're excited to see him back out there at full force," Makar said. "Obviously, with everything personal that whatever went on, it's just his stuff and we support him with whatever he's got to do."
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said he's been checking in with Nichushkin.
"I have a lengthy relationship with Val now," Bednar said. "I just want to make sure his head's in the right place and he was able to train the way he wanted to train and needed to train to be a real good player for us."
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl
for more features.