NHL.com periodically will be doing a series called "Five Questions With …," a Q&A with some of the key figures in the game today aimed to gain insight into their lives and careers.
This edition features Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog:
Gabriel Landeskog has been forced to play a tough hand in his first season as the captain of the Colorado Avalanche.
First there was the lockout, which Landeskog spent playing for Djurgarden of the Swedish Elite League.
Then came a shortened training camp followed by a concussion that sidelined Landeskog for 11 games.
In the meantime, the Avalanche were struggling on the ice and didn't know when, or even if, core center Ryan O'Reilly was going to sign a new contract to play this season.
Now the National Hockey League is in full swing, Landeskog is healthy, Colorado is back to .500, O'Reilly is under contract and back in the mix and the Avalanche are getting set to open one of the most difficult sets of back-to-back games they'll play all season: Tuesday in Detroit and Wednesday in Chicago in the NBCSN Wednesday Night Rivalry game.
We asked Landeskog about dealing with an injury early in his captaincy, the impact of O'Reilly, his thoughts on the Avalanche moving forward, and one question on the Blackhawks that prompted an answer you will want to read.
Here are Five Questions With … Gabriel Landeskog.
Here you are as a young guy, a young captain, and shortly into your first season as captain you get hurt and have to deal with the fact that you can't be around the team as much as you'd like and you can't have the voice on the ice that you wanted to have. How did you deal with that challenge and was that difficult?
"It was mostly just frustrating. You come back after your first season, after the lockout and you just want to prove yourself again. I just wanted to go out there, play my game, do my thing, and then I get hurt. There's still a lot to handle when you're the captain and you're hurt, but it's tough to do when you're not in the room every game and you don't see everything that goes on during the road trips and you don't really know the mood in the room when you're not there. So those things are difficult, but nobody said I was going to be the perfect captain from Day 1. This is all a part of it.
"I still wanted to contribute with my work ethic, but that's why it was so hard for me. That's what I do, but when you have a concussion it's not like a shoulder where you can still sit on the bike or whatever. With a concussion you're not allowed to get your heart rate up so that way was difficult to contribute with my work ethic."
When it comes to Ryan O'Reilly, were you upset, angry, frustrated -- any of the above -- that one of your core teammates was not in the lineup for nearly half the season?
"I mean, you go through waves of emotions during a period like that. It was just unfortunate that it had to get to that point, but it's tough for me to sit here and say he should do that, he should do this, when myself, I haven't been in that position so I don't know. Honestly, bottom line, what it comes down to is he makes our team better and I don't care how much he's making or how little he's making. He makes our hockey team a better team and that's the bottom line."
"I think we have three good lines that can contribute, that can score goals. I think our goaltending has showed this year that it's pretty high up in the League. [Semyon Varlamov] has been huge and showing night in and night out that he is one of the best goalies in the League."
-- Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's postseason hopes
Now that you do have one of your top players back in the lineup, does it change the direction of the team, the perspective of the team, the goals of the team?
"No. If anything, it eliminates even more excuses. I'm not saying we had any excuses before, we're still battling and coming back to .500, but now we have one of our core guys back and one of our best players on the team. Without a doubt it's going to make us better and without a doubt if we want to get into the playoffs we know we have to start it right now."
I'm not expecting you to say 'No' in response to this question but I'm curious about the reasons why you would say 'Yes:' With O'Reilly back, do you feel your team can be a legitimate playoff contender this season?
"Yes, I do. Why? I think we have three good lines that can contribute, that can score goals. I think our goaltending has showed this year that it's pretty high up in the League. Varly [Semyon Varlamov] has been huge and showing night in and night out that he is one of the best goalies in the League.
"We still have a lot to learn, but coming from a playoff race last year, that sour taste you have in your mouth going into the summer is something we want to use as motivation this year. We don't want to be there again. If you just squeeze in you never know what can happen. L.A. showed that last year.
"But in saying that, I still think, injuries aside, we've had so many games where we just need to learn to get that extra point. We've had a lot of one point games this season, which is a big step from last year, when we'd maybe lose those games in the last minute of regulation. That's a big step forward, but in saying that we know we have to get that second point because those are the points that are so huge."
Your team plays Tuesday in Detroit and Chicago plays Tuesday at home against Minnesota, but let's look ahead for a minute here: Does it matter to you if the Blackhawks still have their streak going when you play them Wednesday at United Center or are you hoping they at least get a point against the Wild to keep it alive so you can be the next team to try to snap it?
"Absolutely, it matters. I remember asking Paul Stastny early in the season, 'When do we play Chicago?' Chicago was maybe 5-0 and people were already talking a little about the streak. Now there is only one more game in between and then it's up to us and we could have a chance to end that streak. To be honest, I want them to win Tuesday night and we want to be the team that goes in there and puts an end to that.
"But streak or not, it doesn't really matter because we're in a spot where we have to take two points. They're extremely hot right now and we want to put an end to it, but bottom line is we want to get those two points."