The Colorado Avalanche returned to practice at Ball Arena on Thursday after an eight-day layoff and three players that were previously on the club's injured list were actively involved in the session as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nathan MacKinnon and Devon Toews all skated.
The last time Colorado was on the ice the team earned a 2-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 2, and the squad had six players out of the lineup with injuries at that time. Bellemare (lower body), Matt Calvert (upper body), Pavel Francouz (lower body), Erik Johnson (upper body), MacKinnon (lower body) and Toews (lower body) were all out with week-to-week diagnosis.
"They looked pretty good," head coach Jared Bednar said of Bellemare, MacKinnon and Toews. "We will just see what tomorrow brings, but I would say that there is a possibility that some or all of them play on Sunday."
MacKinnon last played on Sunday, Jan. 31 at Minnesota, but he sustained a lower-body injury and did not play in the third period of that contest, a 4-3 overtime loss for Colorado. He leads the team with 14 points and 12 assists in 10 games played.
Toews has missed three contests since he suffered his ailment when he blocked a shot on Jan. 28 in Colorado's 3-0 win against the San Jose Sharks. In eight games this year, the blueliner has three goals and two assists and is a trusted skater at even strength and on both special teams for the Avalanche.
Bellemare was injured in the same contest as Toews, as he left the game late in the first period following a collision in the neutral zone. In his second season with Colorado, he's centered the fourth line in each of the first eight outings of the year after setting career highs in goals (nine), assists (13) and points (22) in 2019-20.
"There's always silver linings and you got to look at the positive side of things and that's of course one of them, getting a few guys back," veteran Nazem Kadri said of the layoff. "The more healthy we are obviously the better of a team we are. That actually worked out to our advantage and now it's just time to prepare for the new few days."
Forward Matt Calvert (upper body), defenseman Erik Johnson (upper body) and goaltender Pavel Francouz (lower body) all remain out with their ailments.
Forwards Tyson Jost and Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Samuel Girard are also unavailable after being placed on the league's COVID protocol list in the past week. While they are out, those players are unable to practice, travel or play in games.
"The guys on the list are doing fine," said Bednar. "They are falling the protocol, so we didn't see them today, but it is my understanding that they are all doing OK."
Colorado's season has been on pause since that Feb. 2 contest. The team is currently scheduled to play two games at the Vegas Golden Knights beginning on Sunday.
"Everyone is doing the best that they possibly can in order to get ready for the games," Bednar said. "The game will throw you wrinkles, and you can't always be prepared for everything--you got to have contingency plans. Injuries are part of that, guys getting sick are part of that and COVID is now part of that and not just worrying about your own team, but the opposition will throw you wrinkles, and you just got to be ready to roll with the punches and that's what we are doing. Everyone is just trying to do their best to get these games in and play as high a level as possible. The season is not going to look the same as any other year. There's too many moving pieces to it so everyone is just trying to do their best."