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Avalanche Receives Good News On Injuries

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

CENTENNIAL, Colo.—The Colorado Avalanche appears to be getting healthy as injury news after Monday's practice at Family Sports Center was positive.

After being on the wrong end of a big hit in the third period of Sunday's overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets and missing the end of the game, defenseman Erik Johnson took part in a full practice and didn't appear to have any lasting effects from the collision.

The hit occurred early in the final period when the Jets' Mark Stuart crashed into Johnson, forcing his upper body to hit the corner boards hard. Johnson was able to make it back to the bench under his power after the hit but went across the ice to the Avalanche locker room at the next whistle where he was tested for a concussion. The results came back negative and the 6-foot-4, 232-pound rear guard said he could have returned if the injury occurred earlier in the game.

"I feel a lot better. I was a little bit worried when it happened," Johnson said. "Went through the whole concussion protocol and came out good. Felt a lot better last night and this morning and will be able to play tomorrow.

"When you go through the protocol you go through a series of tests and pass the tests. It takes about 30-35 minutes, by that time I wasn't able to come back into the game. If it happened in the first period I might have been able to come back."

Head coach Patrick Roy confirmed Johnson would play Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks and said the Avalanche will pretty much use the same lineup as it did against Winnipeg. Semyon Varlamov will start in net.

Another good sight on the ice was that of forward Jesse Winchester taking part in his first full practice after being sidelined for the entire season to this point because of a head injury. He was hurt after falling awkwardly into the sideboards in a Sept. 30 preseason game at Calgary.

Winchester had skated in a red non-contact jersey in the club's last five team practices but was back in a regular gray jersey on Monday.

"I felt good. I've been working hard while the team has been away," Winchester said. "It's pretty tough watching so to be out there today, compete and take part in every drill, I'm excited to keep progressing and get in a game soon."

Roy said Winchester won't play against the Sharks but could return for Thursday's home game against the New York Islanders.

"Getting better. Still day to day," Roy said of Winchester. "We'll know more in the next few days if he continues to do well."

Winchester said he was thrilled to join Colorado after signing a two-year deal in the offseason, but starting his Avalanche tenure on the training table was not what he had in mind. Now healthy, he said he is looking forward to being a positive factor for the squad when he returns to the ice.

"I've watched every game so far that the team has played so I'm comfortable with the systems and everything. Coaches have been great with me," said Winchester, who has a clear objective when he returns. "Just come in, be enthusiastic, hard on the puck, finding energy and hopefully pot a goal."

The only active Avalanche player to not practice was left wing Alex Tanguay, who was nursing his foot after blocking a shot with it against the Jets. However, Roy said he expects Tanguay to be in the lineup on Tuesday.

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