CENTENNIAL, Colo.--On the eve of the Colorado Avalanche's biggest game of the season to date, the team could get one of its best offensive pieces back in the lineup.
Gabriel Landeskog took part in Thursday's optional practice in a regular contact jersey, and head coach Jared Bednar says the team captain might be available for Friday's game against the Arizona Coyotes.
"We'll see how he gets through today. He is definitely feeling better," Bednar said. "He's in a regular jersey, so he's a possibility for tomorrow."
Landeskog is third on the team in scoring, setting career highs this season with 33 goals and 69 points (33 goals, 36 assists). He leads the NHL with nine game-winning goals (tied) and 19 third-period markers in 68 games played.
"I feel good. I feel great, ready to go," Landeskog said after the skate at Family Sports Center. "I guess we'll find out tomorrow."
Video: Gabriel Landeskog on returning from injury
Colorado has a two-point edge on Arizona for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both clubs have five games remaining in the regular season entering Friday's matchup.
The Avalanche and Coyotes have split the first two games of the season series, with both contests taking place in Arizona. Friday's outing will be the only one of 2018-19 that will be played in Denver.
"It's a big one, I think everyone knows," Landeskog said. "For us, it's just making sure we know what is at stake here and what position we're in and what position they're in and what tomorrow can do. We've done a good job of putting ourselves in a position to make sure this one is important tomorrow."
Landeskog has missed the last nine contests with an upper-body injury suffered on March 7. He was involved in a collision with Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop along the end boards midway through the third period of that game.
The original timeline for Landeskog's injury was four-to-six weeks, but he has been skating on his own and in team drills for more than a week now while wearing a non-contact sweater.
Video: Bednar talks about Gabriel Landeskog's health
The left wing credits the team's training staff for making a plan and getting him back on the ice two weeks after being injured and possibly into a game a week early.
"We want to be smart. We want to make sure we took care of this the right way," he said. "I feel good today. Obviously ahead of schedule, which is always a good thing. But the medical trainers and doctors have taken care of us.
"I feel great. We've been on the ice for a week, 10 days, something like that. I've been getting better every day and stronger and more confident, and it's this time of year you just want to get back in the lineup."
The Avs have a 6-2-1 record in the nine games since Landeskog has been out of the lineup, with the team's 13 points accrued tied for the third most in that time. Colorado has picked up points in six straight contests (5-0-1).
"It never hurts to have your captain and your leader back in your locker room. I'm hoping he can play tomorrow and be ready to go and help us win," Bednar said. "It's a huge game. It's two points in the standings, the tiebreaker is on the line with Arizona. Games are running out here, and we need everyone we can get, and tomorrow against them is one of the teams we're fighting for this playoff spot. It's going to be a big game. It's a playoff game."
Right wing Mikko Rantanen has yet to take the ice for a skate since missing the past three games with an upper-body injury.
"I don't really have an update on him," said Bednar. "He's still doing his work in the training room and gym, trying to get himself ready. Same kind of thing with Landy, but there is no new information on him. He's just getting evaluated day-to-day."
Rantanen is second on the Avalanche in scoring with 87 points and leads the team in assists with 56.
Prior to the practice, Vladislav Kamenev skated once again and ran drills in a red, non-contact jersey. Kamenev has been out since hurting his shoulder on Dec. 8.