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Chris Stewart Joins Practice

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Forward Chris Stewart continues to make encouraging progress in his return from a hand injury suffered on Nov. 27 against Minnesota.

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The forward was on the ice during yesterday’s morning skate and did some passing drills with his teammates. On Friday morning, the Toronto native took another positive step in his rehabilitation process by participating in the majority of the Avalanche’s practice. Stewart skated in most of the drills and even took a few shots for the first time since sustaining the injury.

Stewart wore an orange non-contact jersey today and also did some extra conditioning as practice was breaking up.

“He’s making progress. He’s getting better every day,” said Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco. “Once Stewy gets back in the lineup, we’ll be able to talk more about Chris.”

Just having Stewart back on the ice and around the team has provided a bit of the boost for Colorado. Following Friday’s practice, Avalanche captain Adam Foote expounded on exactly how much the power forward has meant to the club this season. 

“Obviously he’s a big part of the team. He plays an explosive game with talent,” said Foote. “We’re missing a little bit of that. He makes defensemen turn their heads and he worries them. It’ll be nice, it looks like he’s going to be back soon.”

Also on the ice Friday morning was defenseman Kyle Cumiskey, who has been cleared for full contact. The blueliner suffered a concussion on Oct. 30 in a game against Columbus and has missed the club’s past 30 games.

Sacco noted following practice that Cumiskey is making progress, but still has to work his way back into game shape after missing two months of action.

“He’s just not ready yet, condition-wise, so we’ll give him a few more days,” said Sacco. “We just have to take it day-by-day with Kyle. I’m hopeful it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”

Cumiskey himself said that he’s feeling fine now and is not experiencing any lingering effects from the concussion.

“I feel great. It’s not bugging me at all,” said Cumiskey. “Now it’s about getting used to the speed and getting back into condition. Having two months off like that, it takes a while to get back into it. Hopefully that will come back to me quick.”

In other news from today’s skate, Craig Anderson will start in net for Saturday’s afternoon tilt against the New York Islanders.

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McLeod Back On The Ice
Injured forward Cody McLeod skated by himself prior to this morning’s practice. The winger has missed eight of Colorado’s last nine games with a groin injury suffered on Dec. 17 against Ottawa.

McLeod missed three consecutive contests after the injury (Dec. 19-23), came back for the Avs’ Dec. 27 tilt against Detroit, and has now sat out the last five games.

There is still no firm timetable for when McLeod might return to game action.

Examining The Standings
The Avs are officially at the midway point of their 2010-11 campaign, and with 41 games under their collective belt, the team currently ranks sixth in the Western Conference with a 21-15-5 record (47 points).

It’s brought up so often that it sounds cliché and almost becomes white noise at times, but there’s no questioning the facts: The race for playoff positioning in the Western Conference is extremely tight, and the numbers back that up.

On Friday morning, five points separated the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference (Montreal, 47 points) from the first current “non-playoff” team at No. 9 (Carolina, 42 points). In the Western Conference, that same five-point margin is all that stands between the No. 4 seed (Nashville, 48 points) and the No. 13 seed (Columbus, 43 points).

Looking again to the Eastern Conference, the No. 4 seed (Philadelphia, 55 points) and the No. 13 seed (Toronto, 34 points) have a 21-point gap between them.

Needless to say, in a conference that’s so jam-packed, points can’t be squandered.

“The Western Conference is a tough conference, and we have to make sure we don’t give away points,” said Foote. “This team coming in tomorrow, New York, they’re playing better and we can’t take them lightly.”
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