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Hejduk Should Return Tuesday

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk is expected to be available when Colorado hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center.

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The veteran winger left Colorado’s March 11 game against Anaheim with a shoulder injury and has now missed the team’s last four games.

Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco made the announcement regarding Hejduk’s availability after the team’s official practice session had ended on Monday morning. At that point Hejduk was still on the ice with a number of the team’s youngsters, including Ryan O’Reilly, Erik Johnson, Mark Olver and Ryan Stoa.

“He should be available for us tomorrow night,” said Sacco. “He made it through practice today. He’s still out there, shooting around, so that’s a good sign.”

Hejduk skated on a line with Paul Stastny and David Jones during Monday’s practice.

If Hejduk does indeed suit up on Tuesday, he would become just the third player in franchise history to reach 900 career games with the club. Hejduk is also sitting on 19 goals, placing him just one tally shy of reaching the 20-goal mark for the 11th consecutive season.

Elliott Will Start
Goaltender Brian Elliott will get the starting nod on Tuesday night against the Blue Jackets. The netminder is coming off a solid 31-save performance on Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers, a contest which marked his first victory in an Avalanche uniform.

In other news from practice, forward Philippe Dupuis missed the skate due to illness, while defenseman Matt Hunwick took a maintenance day.

Sacco also added that there is nothing new to report on defenseman Adam Foote, who injured his leg on Wednesday against Vancouver and has missed the club’s past two contests.

Win Eases the Burden
It’s funny how one win can affect the morale of the club.

Monday’s practice (and the subsequent atmosphere in the locker room afterward) was decidedly more upbeat than it has been in recent weeks. Not surprisingly, the ambiance holds a direct correlation to the Avalanche snapping a 10-game winless streak by beating the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

“It’s huge. We’ve been searching for it for a while,” said forward David Jones.  “It’s nice to get that win, because it’s been a while. Hopefully we can carry that into playing a little bit better at home than we’ve been playing of late.”

Defenseman Ryan Wilson agrees with that sentiment and noted that the plane ride home from Alberta was much easier to deal with after a victory.

“It was definitely a little easier. We played a couple of good games recently, but hadn’t gotten the results that we wanted,” said Wilson. “We didn’t play very well in Calgary, so we knew we had to come out hard against Edmonton. Getting the two points was big. It’s something we can definitely build on. We need to keep progressing, not regressing here.”

Now, the challenge for the Avalanche will be to carry that momentum forward into Tuesday’s game and beyond, to hopefully end the season on a positive note.

“It’s been so long since we’ve had that feeling, that sense of accomplishment of getting a win,” added Jones. “Still, it wasn’t too long ago that we had a ton of losses, so that feeling hasn’t completely escaped us either. Columbus has played us hard all year, so it’s going to be a tough battle, but if we play like we did against Edmonton we should be successful.”

Sacco On Stefan Elliott
The Avalanche announced on Monday morning that the club has signed defenseman Stefan Elliott to an entry-level contract. Elliott just wrapped up a stellar regular season with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades that saw him lead all league blueliners with 31 goals and tie for first with 81 points.

After today’s practice, Sacco touched on Elliott’s signing.

“He had an amazing year this year in junior, looking at his numbers and his team’s record,” said Sacco. “I hope he does well in the playoffs there with his team. It seems like they’re going to have a strong chance to move along and do some damage there. I look forward to seeing him compete next year in training camp.”

Sacco also pointed out a few of the positives he saw in Elliott’s game during last September’s training camp.

“From what I remember, he was decent-sized, but his skill was the one thing I noticed that jumped out. He had a real good stick, he saw the ice really well and he jumped up in the play. His timing was very good as far as being active and joining the play.”

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Quincey Skating
Injured defenseman Kyle Quincey has started skating, and although he remains out for the season, the fact that he’s back on the ice is an encouraging sign.

Originally acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on July 3, 2009, Quincey led the Avalanche in ice time at 23:36 per game and finished second among team defensemen with 29 points (6g/23a) during his first season in Denver.

 The blueliner signed a two-year contract with the Avalanche last July and appeared in 21 games this season before suffering a shoulder injury on Dec. 11 at Washington that knocked him out of commission for the balance of the year.

Prior to this morning’s practice Quincey put himself through some skating drills and also did some back-and-forth passing with Tomas Fleischmann, who himself is out for the season due to pulmonary emboli.
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