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Foote, Wilson Close To Returning

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
It appears the Avalanche will be getting at least one healthy body back on the defensive end of the ice for Thursday’s contest against the Minnesota Wild.

On Monday, the Avalanche reassigned defensemen Wes O’Neill and Brett Skinner to the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League.

O’Neill played in two games for the Avalanche after being recalled on Jan. 15, recording a +1 plus/minus rating and one shot on goal. Skinner, who was recalled on Jan. 21, did not see game action during his time in Denver.

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The moves leave Colorado with eight defensemen on its roster. Foote (ankle) and Ruslan Salei (back) are currently on injured reserve, while rookie Ryan Wilson - who suffered a head injury on Jan. 18 versus Edmonton - has also missed the past two games.

All three injured blueliners were on the ice for practice today at Family Sports Center. Foote and Salei wore normal black defenseman jerseys, while Wilson was sporting an orange non-contact sweater.

Following practice, Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco gave status updates on both Wilson and Foote. Sacco first addressed the rookie defenseman’s likelihood of playing Thursday.

“He’s close to returning,” said Sacco. “He’s still day-to-day right now, but he’s making progress so we’ll take it one day at a time right now and see how he responds after practice today and after practice tomorrow.”

And as for Foote?

“Same thing,” said Sacco. “Both guys are close to returning, I just don’t know for sure when.”

Other Injury Notes
Turning to the front line, forward Chris Stewart didn’t practice today, but Sacco said it was simply a “maintenance day” brought on by a few bumps and bruises.

Also of note, forward Marek Svatos (chest) skated today wearing a non-contact jersey. Svatos left in the third period of Colorado’s Jan 16 contest against New Jersey and has missed the past three games.

Power Play Pulling Its Weight
Colorado’s power-play unit has been especially efficient lately, having scored a pair of goals in each of the last three contests. During that stretch, the Avalanche has struck on 31.6% (6-of-19) of its chances.

“The power-play has definitely had some ups and downs this year,” said defenseman John-Michael Liles. “I think every team in the league goes through that and it’s not something you want to happen, but when you start to struggle you have to simplify. Lately we’ve been able to score some timely goals.”

The club’s success on the power play has a lot to do with capitalizing on its 5-on-3 opportunities. The Avs have netted seven 5-on-3 goals this year, the most of any team in the NHL.

“That’s huge because last year we didn’t have a ton of those,” said Liles. “It means that guys are still out there working hard and generating opportunities, which causes the other team to take penalties and put us up 5-on-3.”

Overall this season, Colorado ranks 12th in the NHL in power-play efficiency at 18.6%, scoring on 39 of its 210 opportunities with the man-advantage.
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