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At the Rink blog

Hejda returning to Avalanche lineup

Saturday, 12.14.2013 / 3:58 PM

By Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Hejda returning to Avalanche lineup

DENVER -- Jan Hejda will return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup Saturday to play against the Minnesota Wild at Pepsi Center after missing four games with a sprained right knee.

The defenseman was injured Dec. 5 in the first period of and 8-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

"It feels good," he said after the morning skate. "Hopefully I didn't lose game shape. Nobody likes to be injured and watching the games on television. That's what I did for the last few games and it's not a good feeling. I'm really glad I can be a part of the game tonight."

Hejda has been the Avalanche's best defenseman, paired with Erik Johnson. Hejda is averaging 22:10 in ice time and has three goals, six assists and is plus-17 in 26 games.

Hejda was injured while skating for the puck when he fell awkwardly and crashed into the boards. He was in obvious pain while holding his knee, and the injury appeared more serious than it turned out to be.

"I didn't watch the replays too much, but everybody was saying it looked bad," he said. "The good thing is it only took a little more than a week and hopefully I'm going to feel good on the ice. I was skating for three days and it's always good to be back in action as fast as possible."

Defenseman Ryan Wilson hoped to play against the Wild but will miss his 17th game because of a back injury. Coach Patrick Roy said Wilson needs more practice time.

The Avalanche (21-9-0) are in third place in the Central Division, one point ahead of the Wild (18-11-5), who have played four more games. The Avalanche swept a home-and-home series from the Wild two weeks ago, winning the second game 3-2 in a shootout after squandering a late 2-0 lead.

"Every game in this League, especially in the West, is a big one because there is such a logjam," Avalanche center Matt Duchene said. "We can't afford many hiccups this year."

Duchene ended an eight-game drought without a goal Thursday when he had two and an assist in a 4-3 shootout win against the Winnipeg Jets. Colorado lost three of its previous four games.

Wild coach Mike Yeo is shuffling line combinations in an attempt to generate more offense. The Wild have scored five goals during a four-game winless streak (0-3-1), 15

goals in 10 games (3-6-1), and four goals in a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) on the road.

Right wing Jason Pominville, who has a team-leading 15 goals, has been moved from the first line to the second line. Charlie Coyle, who has no goals and one assist in the past five games, will skate at right wing in Pominville's usual spot on the top line with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.

"We need a way to create a little more offense," said Wild coach Mike Yeo, who will use rookie Erik Haula to center the second line with Nino Niederreiter and Pominville.

"Certainly his speed is a factor, and he does have skill," Yeo said of Haula, who was recalled Friday from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League. "I do like what I've seen of him up to this point, but it's going to be a tougher test tonight. He'll be playing against better lines than what he has in the past. He's been good in his positioning and he's had a good stick, and that's going to be very important.

"It's going to be an emotional game, an intense game. Both teams recognize the importance of it, but the bigger picture for us is playing our game and getting back on track."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Zach Parise -- Mikko Koivu -- Charlie Coyle

Nino Niederreiter -- Erik Haula -- Jason Pominville

Matt Cooke -- Kyle Brodziak -- Brett Bulmer

Dany Heatley -- Zenon Konopka -- Torrey Mitchell

Ryan Suter -- Jonas Brodin

Jared Spurgeon -- Marco Scandella

Keith Ballard -- Clayton Stoner

Josh Harding

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Justin Fontaine, Nate Prosser, Mike Rupp

Injured: Mikael Granlund (concussion)

AVALANCHE

Ryan O'Reilly -- Matt Duchene -- Nathan MacKinnon

Gabriel Landeskog -- Paul Stastny -- PA Parenteau

Jamie McGinn -- John Mitchell -- Maxime Talbot

Cody McLeod -- Marc-Andre Cliche -- Patrick Bordeleau

Erik Johnson -- Jan Hejda

Tyson Barrie -- Nate Guenin

Andre Benoit -- Cory Sarich

Semyon Varlamov

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Scratched: Nick Holden, Brad Malone

Injured: Alex Tanguay (knee, hip), Ryan Wilson (back)

Quote of the Day

He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers