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Rantanen Taking Full Contact, Could Play Against Blackhawks

Forward has missed the last five weeks with a lower-body injury

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Mikko Rantanen says he won't play on Wednesday when the Colorado Avalanche hosts the Edmonton Oilers, but the forward could make his return to the lineup on Friday or Saturday when the Avs take on the Chicago Blackhawks in a home-and-home set.

The right wing has missed the past 14 games with a lower-body injury that he suffered on Oct. 21 at the St. Louis Blues.

"Feel better every day. Just need a couple more days with the team and practices," Rantanen said. "I'm not playing tomorrow."

Rantanen took part in his first full-contact practice on Tuesday morning at Family Sports Center after taking some contact in the previous day's team session. He skated on a line that included Vladislav Kamenev, Logan O'Connor and T.J. Tynan and also saw reps on both power-play units during special-teams drills.

The Avs forward began skating on his own on Nov. 11, but he didn't join any team sessions until recently. He took part in an optional practice on Friday and was a partial-contact participant in Monday's session before removing the non-contact sweater for Tuesday's team skate.

"You don't really skate for three weeks, it takes a while to get back in shape," Rantanen said. "I feel pretty good now so I expect to play soon."

Video: Mikko Rantanen on recovering from injury

Originally listed as week-to-week, Rantanen said he is on schedule in terms of his recovery.

"We kind of knew it was going to take a while," he said. "Those things, especially early in the year, you don't want to go too early and then hurt it again and then be out more than you're supposed to."

At the time of his injury, Rantanen was tied for the club lead in points (12), goals (five) and game-winners (two) in nine games. Despite missing the past five weeks, Rantanen's 12 points are tied for sixth on the Avalanche in scoring.

Rantanen's injury was the start of a wave of ailments that the Avs have had to deal with. Since then, Colorado has also been without Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (concussion, one game), Matt Calvert (head, three games presently), Pavel Francouz (concussion, two games), Philipp Grubauer (lower body, five games), Tyson Jost (upper body, three games), Gabriel Landeskog (lower body, 12 games presently), Colin Wilson (lower body, 12 games presently) and Nikita Zadorov (head, three games), and Erik Johnson is questionable for Wednesday's contest after being pushed headfirst into the boards in the previous outing against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Johnson was a non-contact participant at Tuesday's practice.

"Obviously injuries are the toughest mentally," Rantanen said. "You go out and you want to help the team, but you're out for four, five weeks. It's not the easiest thing but it's part of this sport and all the sports. You just have to go through it."

Video: Avs head coach Jared Bednar gives injury updates

In addition to Rantanen and Johnson, the Avalanche's other injured players seem to be making good progress in their recoveries.

Landeskog skated for the first time before Tuesday's practice, while head coach Jared Bednar said on Monday that Calvert and Wilson are slowly recovering and have had good days and bad ones. Wilson has skated on his own a few times in recent days.

Rantanen wishes he was able to help the team on the ice during this period of injuries, but he's been impressed with the Avs' resiliency in that time.

"The last road trip was five games and we won three, so I think it's a pretty good record," Rantanen said. "We've had a lot of injuries now, Landy, Willy, Calvy, all the guys who have been out. It hasn't been easy for the team, but they've done an unbelievable job. So it's been good."

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