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Wilson Could Return Against Sabres

Forward Colin Wilson and defenseman Patrik Nemeth are close to game action

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Colin Wilson and Patrik Nemeth were back to being full participants in the Colorado Avalanche's practice on Monday at Family Sports Center, but only one could dress in the team's game on Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres. The other isn't too far behind however. 

Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said following the session that Wilson should play against the Sabres after missing the past three contests with a lower-body injury.

The forward has appeared in 16 games this season, registering a goal and four assists, but has been in and out of the lineup with various ailments. He missed a chunk of training camp and the preseason with a minor injury from the summer and was out for six contests beginning in late October with a hurt hip. 

"I like to get him in the lineup more so we can keep building and getting a little more offense out of him," Bednar said of Wilson. "It's hard to count on him to do that when he is in and out with these nagging injuries all the time. I think the best has yet to come for Wilson, but I really like what he's been doing for our team." 

Wilson practiced on a line with Sven Andrighetto, Gabriel Bourque and Nail Yakupov on Monday, with one of those forwards likely to sit for the game against Buffalo as a healthy scratch. 

If Wilson does dress, his defensive play would be a boost for the club. Bednar noted that the Greenwich, Connecticut-born player excels at getting the puck out of the zone, an area that can help the Avs as they look to respond from a 7-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Sunday. 

"One of the strengths in his game is his wall play," Bednar said. "In the defensive zone, if the puck is coming around his wall, it's getting out. He's real consistent there. He doesn't make a whole bunch of turnovers." 

Video: Coach Jared Bednar after practice

Despite being in and out of the lineup through the first two months of the year, Bednar isn't worried about the center/left wing getting back up to speed.

"He keeps himself in really great condition, so I feel like when he's been in, he's been real consistent," Bednar noted of Wilson. "He brings us a heavy body, strong work ethic, good leadership, there is no quit in his game, his details are good."

Nemeth has been out for the past 11 contests with an unspecified lower-body injury, but he could return to action during the upcoming four-game road trip on the east coast. Nemeth last played Nov. 5 at the New York Islanders, just prior to the club traveling to his hometown of Stockholm, Sweden, for the SAP NHL Global Series against the Ottawa Senators. 

"First day of contact for him today," Bednar said of the defenseman. "He's moving forward too, and should be a player for us in the near future." 

Tuesday's outing will be the fourth and final one of Avs forward Gabriel Landeskog's suspension due to a cross check, and it appears as if the club is starting to get its captain ramped up for his return Thursday when Colorado plays at the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Landeskog was on a top-six combo with rookies Tyson Jost and Alexander Kerfoot during the 30-minute on-ice session on Monday. He'll likely return to his former spot on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon Mikko Rantanen when he is eligible to return, but that won't be the case on Tuesday. J.T. Compher set to play with that group for a third consecutive outing. 

So with Landeskog not able to compete on Tuesday, who will take that spot with Jost and Kerfoot? It will likely be Rocco Grimaldi, who was recalled from the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League in the afternoon.

The announcement was made after Bednar met with the media, but the Avs coach did say that the team would be "getting a spark in our lineup" to possibly play with that first-year duo.

To make room for Grimaldi, Colorado reassigned rookie Dominic Toninato to San Antonio. Toninato mostly played fourth-line minutes, averaging 7:57 per game, and had one assist in eight games during his first stint in the NHL. Grimaldi has a goal and two assists after playing in five contests earlier this season with the Avs.

Colorado closes its second-longest homestand of the season on Tuesday before going on a tough, week-long road trip that has stops at Tampa Bay, Florida, Pittsburgh and Washington. The Avalanche is 1-3-0 so far on its homestay, losing its past two outings.

"The homestand is an important thing, and I think we haven't been playing how we want to play on this homestand," defenseman Anton Lindholm said. "This last game is going to be huge for us. Get a good feeling, then go on the road and spend some time with each other and come together as a group."

Video: Lindholm on returning to game action

Bednar said the details and being ready to compete at the opening faceoff are the two areas he's looking for his team to improve in.

"We're going to do everything in our power to come out tomorrow ready to play and play our game," Bednar said. "The attention to detail and the urgency and the intensity that we talked about. That is something that we need. It's in a lot of areas of our game that we've addressed with our team, and they are aware of it. I believe in this group."

Semyon Varlamov will start in net for the Avalanche. It will be the goaltender's fourth-straight contest after he came in on Sunday in relief of Jonathan Bernier during the second period against the Stars.

Video: Nathan MacKinnon on the team's recent play

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