DENVER (AP) — Colorado Avalanche forward Jonathan Drouin returned to the lineup Monday night against Dallas, filling a scoring void on the heels of Valeri Nichushkin’s suspension.

Drouin has been sidelined since he suffered a lower-body injury in the regular-season finale. Drouin posted career-high numbers in points (56) and assists (37) in his first season with the Avalanche.

About an hour before the start of Game 4, the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players’ Association announced the news of Nichushkin’s suspension. He was suspended for at least six months without pay and placed in stage 3 of the league’s player assistance program. It’s the second time this season Nichushkin has been in the program.

The Avalanche were without defenseman Devon Toews, who was a late scratch due to an illness.

Drouin was hurt when he tripped in the second period against Edmonton on April 18. He watched Colorado advance in the first round over Winnipeg and as the Stars took a 2-1 lead in the second-round series.

For most of the season, the 29-year-old Drouin typically was on the same line as Mikko Rantanen and his good friend Nathan MacKinnon. He was paired with Zach Parise and Casey Mittelstadt on Monday.

“Very smart player — high, high hockey IQ and very good vision,” Rantanen said of Drouin. “It’s a big addition, obviously.”

Drouin joined the power-play unit in practice Monday morning. The Avalanche are 2 for 8 on the power play in the series against the Stars.

“He was great for us all year,” Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson said. “I know in the playoffs he’s a hard-nose kind of guy, and he will be stepping up and wanting to contribute.”

Drouin almost instantly fit in after signing with Colorado as a free agent over the summer. His 19 goals were fifth on the team.

“We’ve missed him while he’s been out,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “He has the ability to move around our lineup and help with the skill portion of it, the skating portion of it. He’s become a really trusted defensive player for us. So he brings a lot to the table.”

Drouin, the third overall pick by Tampa Bay in 2013, played in 33 postseason games with the Lightning and Montreal Canadiens. He has six playoff goals and 15 assists.

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