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Erik Johnson set for Avalanche return Saturday

Colorado defenseman has been out since Dec. 3 with broken fibula

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson has recovered from the broken fibula he sustained Dec. 3 and said he plans to return Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres at Pepsi Center.

"I feel good, I'm going to play on Saturday," Johnson said Wednesday after taking part in a full contact practice for the first time since he was injured. "I'm going to get a couple more skates in, see that it all goes well, go off [injured reserve] and play Saturday at home."

Johnson was injured when he blocked a shot by Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin in a 3-0 loss. Colorado (16-39-3) has gone 7-26-2 without Johnson and has the worst record in the NHL.

"I wish that coming back, we would be in a better [Stanley Cup Playoff] position so the games meant something," said Johnson, who has 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 23 games. "I guess in this instance I could make sure things felt perfect. The coaches were great, the training staff was great making sure I was 110 percent.

"Let me tell you, there's no worse feeling than being out of the lineup and watching your team struggle. That was probably the hardest part for me, not being able to do anything to help the guys. You feel for the fans and your coaches and teammates; there's no lack of effort, it's just kind of the way the season has been going."

Johnson traveled Wednesday with the Avalanche, who play at the Nashville Predators on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; SN360, SNP, FS-TN, ALT2, NHL.TV). Coach Jared Bednar said Johnson would skate in the morning and practice Friday.

Video: COL@CBJ: Johnson snipes a top-shelf goal

Johnson's return will come after defenseman Nikita Zadorov broke his ankle during practice Monday. He will miss the rest of the season.

"It's a nice boost, especially now when you lose Zadorov," Bednar said. "We all know the role [Johnson] plays on our team. He's been out for a significant length of time, so he'll probably get eased in a little bit. He's a guy that can handle a lot of ice time, so as his leg starts feeling better and he gets his timing back and gets in some games, we can use him for a lot of minutes."

Johnson said the injury won't deter him from continuing to block shots.

"'It tells me I need to have more pads around my skates too, if I'm going to be blocking shots," he said. "I'll still block them, but at the end of the day, that's what the goalies get paid for, right? You sacrifice your body for the good of the team. If a 100 mph slap shot breaks my leg, I think that's just bad luck. I'm not worried about that at all."

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