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Practice Report: Feb. 22

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

CENTENNIAL, Colo. – After being out of the Colorado Avalanche lineup for 11 games, Gabriel Landeskog will be back on the ice with his teammates this weekend.

“I’m finally back so I’m excited,” said Landeskog with a big grin on his face.

Landeskog will travel with the Avalanche on its three-game road trip through California and will play on Saturday at Los Angeles – exactly four weeks since his last game on Jan. 26 at San Jose.

“It’s a big boost to our team,” said Avalanche coach Joe Sacco. “Everyone is excited to have him back. He’s made it through a numerous amount of practices. He had a really good day today. He’s been cleared and I know he is excited.”

Out with leg and head injuries, the Colorado captain began skating on his own last Friday (Feb. 15) and participated in his first full team practice on Wednesday morning prior to Colorado’s game against St. Louis, where he did some light contact with his teammates.

At the team’s practice on Friday morning at the South Suburban Family Sports Center, he participated in full team drills – contact and all – while wearing a gray colored forward jersey.

“Finally get out of that pumpkin jersey,” said Landeskog, who had been wearing an orange, non-contact jersey over the past week.

“Some of the guys were bumping me out there and I was feeling good and was giving it back to them. Taking a hit or giving a hit at the start of the game isn’t going to hurt me. As usual, it helps me come into the game quicker, whether it is taking one or giving one.”

During 5-on-5 drills during Friday’s practice, the NHL’s reigning Rookie of the Year was on a line that was centered by Paul Stastny and had David Jones at the right wing.

Sacco said he isn’t going to hold Landeskog back, but he is also not going to put him into every situation that he was in before, such as the penalty kill.

“It is something that I will monitor a little bit more closely than usual. He has missed 11 games,” Sacco said. “We have to do a good job of making sure that we are not overusing him. We want to make sure that he is fresh and that he can play at a high level. It’s going to be difficult the first few games, especially back-to-back games coming up. I’m going to make sure that I do my best to monitor the situation, to see how he is feeling and see how the game is going along.”

Landeskog was hoping to play in last Monday’s afternoon game against Nashville, but the Colorado medical staff advised him against it so they could continue to monitor his progress.

Despite wanting to play, Landeskog understands how important it was to not come back too soon.

“It’s a fine line but you only have one brain, you only have one head so you have to be cautious,” he said. “I wanted to play on Monday against Nashville, but good thing we have a good medical staff, good doctors that helped me back. Being 20 years old, you just want to get back there and play.”

He will get his chance to get right back into the swing of things as Colorado will play three games in four days. After Saturday’s 2 p.m. contest at the Kings, the team will play at Anaheim on Sunday at 6 p.m. before closing out the trip on Tuesday night in San Jose (8:30 p.m.).

After playing all 82 games last season, Landeskog said missing the last 11 contests has been tough for him, but he is glad that he can finally see some game action and help his teammates out on the ice.

“I’m going to go out there and play as hard as I can every shift,” he said. “I haven’t been off for this long in a few years now so I’m excited to get back to playing and get back to game mode.”

Other Practice Notes

- Milan Hejduk practiced on Friday and will be on the team’s road trip after leaving Wednesday night’s game with a torso injury.

- Colorado reassigned Michael Sgarbossa on Friday afternoon to its AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters. He should be available for Lake Erie’s game on Saturday night against Texas.

- Erik Johnson and Ryan Wilson are still dealing with injuries and will not make the trip.

- Semyon Varlamov will get the start in net on Saturday against the Kings. Sacco will see how Saturday’s game goes before making a decision about a goalie for Sunday against the Ducks, but he said Jean-Sebastien Giguere would likely get the start.

Probable Forward Line Combinations vs. Los Angeles

McGinn – Duchene – Parenteau

Landeskog – Stastny – Jones

McLeod – Mitchell – Hejduk

Bordeleau – Olver – Kobasew – Palushaj

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