BROSSARD, Quebec--Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is expected make his return to the lineup Saturday night after missing the past 10 games with a lower-body injury.
"It's weird not being with the team and not being around the guys all the time," Landeskog said after Friday's practice at the Bell Sports Complex. "You're around the rink, but you're not skating with the team, you're not in all the meetings, and you're definitely not playing the game. Really excited to be back and really excited to be out there for practice today."
While Landeskog is confident he'll play against the Montreal Canadiens, Avs head coach Jared Bednar is erring on the side of caution. He wants to wait and see how the forward feels in the morning before making a final determination on if he'll play in the 5 p.m. MT contest at Bell Centre.
"He had a good practice today, and if he turns out to be good in the morning then we'll make a decision," Bednar said. "He should be able to play."
Landeskog has skated in five of the team's six on-ice sessions this past week, working up to being a full participant in Friday's practice.
Video: Gabriel Landeskog set to return to Avs lineup
According to Landeskog, it was the final test to see if he was ready for game action.
"Everything is feeling good. I've had some good practices and morning skates and some tests on where things have been going well, and I'm feeling good," he said. "We want to make sure that we don't have any setbacks. Our medical team has done a great job taking care of me, which has been really helpful, both as far as the injury goes but also making sure I'm staying patient mentally as well. It's been good."
It appeared as if the forward was close to a return two weeks ago as he skated three consecutive days before having a slight setback.
Landeskog blames himself for going too hard too early in order to try and get back in the lineup.
"That was tough, but at the same time that's the nature of the beast I feel like," Landeskog noted. "We're all competitive, and we all want to come back and help the team as fast as possible. Maybe I got a little too excited there as soon as I got on the ice and pushed it a little too hard, and that's my fault really. Obviously had a little bit of a setback, but we were able to recharge and refocus, and we wanted to make sure that I didn't make the same mistake again."
He nearly made his return to Colorado's starting lineup on Thursday at the Boston Bruins, but the captain was one of a handful of players that fell ill the day prior to the contest. Landeskog was scheduled to take a full practice on Wednesday but instead stayed at the hotel to get well.
The rest seemed to help as he took part in the club's optional morning skate on Thursday, and that translated into a good on-ice session on Friday.
Landeskog last played Nov. 15 against the Los Angeles Kings, a contest that he was able to finish. He even scored an empty-net goal late in the third period.
The Avs went through a tough stretch with Landeskog out of the lineup, posting a 3-6-1 record and going winless in their previous six contests before defeating the Bruins 4-2 on Thursday.
He said the hardest part of his absence was not being able to support his teammates out on the ice.
"You want to help and you want to do what you can, but when you're not in that dressing room there is not much you can do other than support the guys and talk to the guys and try to give them my two cents on what I see," Landeskog said. "So it's tough, but at same time I thought we played some really solid hockey, and we just made some crucial mistakes that have cost us games.
"I thought it was a real big effort last night in Boston, and it's something that we're hopefully going to build on here. We have to build on it. We have to finish this road trip off on a good note and finish off strong."
Video: Coach Jared Bednar talks after practice in Montreal
Landeskog practiced Friday on a line with Mikhail Grigorenko and Carl Soderberg, and Bednar said he would use that combo if the team's leader does play.
The left wing has four goals and four assists in 15 games this season and leads the team in takeaways (22) and power-play tallies (two-tied).
"He can play in all situations and is able to play under pressure and execute under pressure," Bednar said of Landeskog. "An experienced guy that is important for our team, especially with what we've just been through and where we're trying to get to. We'll be welcoming him back with open arms if he's good to go tomorrow."
The Stockholm, Sweden, native's return will come against the Canadiens, an Original Six franchise that has won 24 Stanley Cups. The Bell Centre is already a fun place to play, but the atmosphere is sure to be electric for Saturday's nationally televised game in Canada.
"Montreal on any given night is one of the best rinks to play in in all of North America," Landeskog said. "Obviously Saturday night, Hockey Night In Canada, it's fun. It's something that I obviously didn't grow up with it, but coming over here when I was playing Junior you start watching it, and you realize how big of a deal it is. It will be exciting to be a part of it."
Bednar said goaltender Calvin Pickard would make his second consecutive start in net on Saturday. He's coming off a 29-save performance against the Boston Bruins on Thursday.
"We really liked his game last night, and we're going to see if he can pull another one out for us tomorrow," said Colorado's head coach.
Bednar also noted that the line combinations during today's practice would be the same ones he'll use against the Canadiens, unless Landeskog has a setback and doesn't play.
Four forwards wore black jerseys, meaning either Joe Colborne, Cody McLeod, Andreas Martinsen or Jarome Iginla will be a healthy scratch. However, Iginla seems to be a lock to play in what would be his 1,500th NHL contest.
Below are the groupings from Friday's 30-minute session:
Mikko Rantanen - John Mitchell - Matt Duchene
Blake Comeau - Nathan MacKinnon - Rene Bourque
Gabriel Landeskog - Carl Soderberg - Mikhail Grigorenko
Cody McLeod - Andreas Martinsen - Joe Colborne - Jarome Iginla
Tyson Barrie - Nikita Zadorov
Fedor Tyutin - Patrick Weircioch
Francois Beauchemin - Cody Goloubef / Eric Gelinas