Blackhawks Avalanche Hockey

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock, center, reaches out to cover the puck after stopping a shot by Colorado Avalanche center Alex Galchenyuk, right, as Blackhawks defenseman Ian Mitchell looks on in the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, March 20, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Alex Galchenyuk has played 652 career NHL games between seven different teams.

He wants to stick with the Avalanche.

“Come in, show up and do the best you can,” Galchenyuk said of his mindset earlier this week from the Colorado dressing room inside Ball Arena. “Keep growing your game.”

It’s been a difficult path this season for the journeyman forward selected No. 3 overall in the 2012 NHL draft. But he’s making a strong first impression in a second chance with the Avalanche.

Galchenyuk, signed on a professional tryout contract in training camp, went on to play in four games for the Avs before getting sent down to the AHL Colorado Eagles in early December. Coach Jared Bednar explained why in a blunt assessment: “He didn't have the impact that we were hoping for. He’s going back and going to work. (We’ll) see if he can get his game to where it needs to be to come play for us.”

Message received.

“I’ve been putting in a lot of work in between,” Galchenyuk said. “I definitely feel much better coming in this time around. That’s where my head is (at) and I’ll continue building on that."

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Back in Loveland — under Eagles head coach Greg Cronin — Galchenyuk got to work on details that needed sharpening to bury his reputation as a defensive liability. That process played out over 33 AHL games with Galchenyuk becoming a dependable checker in both zones. He also recorded 15 goals and 18 assists (one point/game). Galchenyuk said: "(Cronin) definitely helped my game a lot and gave me a lot of knowledge about the game and certain details.”

It was enough progress for the Avalanche to recall him when Artturi Lehkonen exited the lineup with a broken finger. Galchenyuk has yet to record a point in five games since rejoining the team. But the early returns are positive from his latest NHL comeback.

“He’s had to change his game now to be able to play in the league. The first time we called him up, it wasn't great defensively. (His) foot speed, it's probably not top tier in the league, so he has to work at it,” Bednar said earlier this week. "And the defending details I'd say were what kept him from staying with us the first time. This time though, he’s been rock solid defensively for us and he's been chipping in a little, bit creating some offensive chances. That (fourth) line has done a nice job in certain circumstances.”

Galchenyuk has played a limited role over his last five games with an average ice time of 6:21. On Wednesday night, in a 5-2 home loss to Pittsburgh, he continued skating with Darren Helm and Matt Nieto on the fourth line. The Avalanche need steady play from Galchenyuk to absorb the Lehkonen’s expected absence through the end of the regular season.

“We’re moving our feet, we’re creating and we’re playing with a lot of energy,” Galchenyuk said. “We’re building a few (good) games.”

What’s next: The Avalanche (41-23-6) host the Arizona Coyotes (27-33-12), 7 p.m. Friday (Altitude) at Ball Arena.