CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Like most players on the Colorado Avalanche's roster, Joe Colborne is looking to have a bounce-back season. He took a big step toward that on Monday as the forward partook in his first team practice of the new campaign.
Colborne missed all of the Avs' training camp and preseason with a back injury he suffered just before players reported on Sept. 14. The timing could not have been worse for the University of Denver alum, who was looking to show off the hard work he put into his game during the offseason.
"I was here working out with the guys, did one exercise that kind of [tweaked it]," Colborne said after Monday's practice at Family Sports Center. "It is not the way you want to go into camp, obviously. I had such a good summer of training and was really looking forward to coming in and getting off to a great start. That's the way it is. I've been working hard in the weight room to make sure that I get my cardio back and everything and be able to step in as soon as possible when the time comes."
Colborne began skating on his own last week and took part in a few drills during team practices on Friday and Saturday, albeit in a red, non-contact jersey. He was finally able to shed that bright sweater on Monday, donning a regular gray Avalanche practice jersey instead.
"It was fun," Colborne said of his first practice. "It has been a tough couple of weeks, but thanks to the medical staff and everyone for getting me back. I felt good out there. Everything felt as close to normal as possible, and it is a big step."
When and where Colborne will fit in the Avs' lineup this season isn't fully known yet, but head coach Jared Bednar seemed encouraged with what he saw from the center after his first team session.
"He's got to keep practicing," Bednar said. "We got to get him in some practices. Once he's done that long enough, we'll get him in some games."
Colborne was on the team's unofficial fifth line with Gabriel Bourque and Carl Soderberg during Monday's session.
Video: Joe Colborne returns to practice
The Calgary, Alberta, native is set to begin his second season with the Avs and is looking for a big improvement from what him and the team accomplished in 2016-17. Colborne recorded eight points (four goals and four assists) in 62 contests last year but three of those points came in a hat-trick performance on opening night.
"As a professional, it was a tough experience and a tough year, and one that you never want to go through again," Colborne said. "I'm sure as many of the other guys did, it was a summer that I think was my best offseason yet. I want to put that as far behind me as possible and come back as a new player and as a different player."
Colborne is only two years removed from tallying 19 goals and 44 points with the Calgary Flames in 2015-16, and he says he is confident that he can get back to a high level of play.
"Control what I can. When the opportunity comes, make sure I'm ready to bear down," Colborne said. "Make sure I'm in the weight room and that my cardio is as good as it can be. When the chance comes, jump on it."
The Avalanche had 28 of its 29 players currently on its roster out on the ice on Monday. The only exception was defenseman Sergei Boikov, who is out indefinitely after dislocating his shoulder during a preseason game on Sept. 21.
A.J. Greer was the lone player to wear a red, non-contact jersey, but he was healthy enough to take part in some of the drills during practice and physical with his teammates when he was allowed to.
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier took part in a portion of the team session and is on track in his recovery from a minor groin injury that he suffered last Monday in Colorado's preseason contest at Dallas.
"He skated yesterday on his own and skated this morning on his own and then joined the team," Bednar said of the netminder. "He'll be back to full practice tomorrow."
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar gives an update on the team
The Avalanche has until Tuesday to get down to the league-mandated 23-man active roster for opening night. Defensemen Duncan Siemens and David Warsofsky have already both cleared waivers while forward Gabriel Bourque was placed on the waiver wire by the club on Monday morning.
It is unclear if any of those three players will be assigned to the American Hockey League's San Antonio Rampage to begin the year, but each skater had to clear waivers before being sent down. The Avs' other players on the bubble for the season-opening roster do not have to clear waivers to be reassigned.
Bednar said the team hasn't made a final decision on its roster and that will come after the coaching and management staff meet one last time after Tuesday's practice.
"We're still making some decisions with our lineup. Still discussing a few things," Bednar said.
"When we see our roster and see how it shapes up tomorrow afternoon, we'll know a little bit better with how we'll play it come New York."
The Avalanche's forward lines were pretty much the same as the club has ran for the past week or so, while the defensive pairings were mixed up once again. Bednar said the changing of D-partners is part of the evaluating process of the four veterans and five prospects presently on the blue line.
AVALANCHE PRACTICE LINES
Sven Andrighetto - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Alexander Kerfoot - Matt Duchene - Nail Yakupov
Gabriel Landeskog - J.T. Compher - Colin Wilson
Matt Nieto - Tyson Jost - Blake Comeau
Gabriel Bourque - Carl Soderberg - Joe Colborne
A.J. Greer (non-contact jersey)
Duncan Siemens - Erik Johnson
Mark Barberio - Tyson Barrie
Nikita Zadorov - David Warsofsky
Anton Lindholm - Chris Bigras