It had been a long road in recovery for Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson.
After missing the first four games of the season with a knee injury he suffered in training camp, Wilson was 10 games into his 2013-14 campaign when the injury bug struck again. The d-man injured his back Nov. 6 against Nashville on what appeared to be a normal hit along the boards.
Wilson missed the next 22 games with the injury and had been working almost every day on his conditioning the past few weeks to get back into game shape.
"I've been working hard on the ice and off the ice," Wilson said last week before the team went on the road for two games in California. "I thought a couple of games ago I was going to be back. It's been tough because you think you're ready, meanwhile you're not fully ready to come back."
Just a little over seven weeks after he last played in a game, Wilson was returned to the Colorado lineup for Friday's game in Chicago against the Blackhawks.
In his return to the ice, Wilson finished with one shot, two hits and played 21:25 of ice time, the second most on the team. He also saw time on both the power play and penalty kill.
Wilson said on Dec. 20 that when he does play in a game, he was going to try and keep things simple.
"I just try and play my game, whatever I think I need to do that night," he said. "Not do too much. Coming back from an injury like this, I'm going to be a little nervous and everything is going to be moving pretty quick but the thing is you have to keep it simple and play your game and just enjoy it."
Wilson was taken off the club's injured reserve list Dec. 14 and had been healthy enough to play since then. However, head coach Patrick Roy wanted him to work on his conditioning before he returned to action.
Roy also didn't feel rushed into playing Wilson because the Avs defensemen had been playing so well. Before Friday's contest, the Colorado D-core only had two players with a negative plus/minus rating (both minus-1) and had scored a goal in each of the previous five games.
-Nick Holden, Cory Sarich and Brad Malone were healthy scratches for the Avs.
-Semyon Varlamov played in the third period in relief of starting goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere and stopped all 13 shots he faced. It was the second time Varlamov had replaced Giguere this season (Nov. 14 at St. Louis).
-Paul Stastny celebrated his 28th birthday on Friday and scored the Avalanche's first goal at 9:07 of the second period. Stastny was born Dec. 27, 1985 in Quebec City, Quebec.
-Gabriel Landeskog scored for the second consecutive game. He also added an assist and is now second on the team in scoring with 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists).
-Matt Duchene appeared in his 300th NHL game.
-It was the second of five games this season between the Avalanche and the Blackhawks. Colorado entered the game 5-2-0 in its previous seven games against Chicago.
-Due to the league-wide holiday break (Dec. 24-26) that prevents teams from holding practices and traveling, the Avs didn't get to Chicago until late Friday morning. The team returned to Denver after the game in preparation for a seven-game homestand, the longest of the season.