Gabriel Landeskog

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Gabriel Landeskog is planning on playing for the Colorado Avalanche next season, but doesn’t know when.

"Between mid-September and start of April," the Avalanche captain said Thursday.

The 31-year-old forward did not play the past two seasons because of a knee injury.

Landeskog had cartilage transplant surgery on his right knee May 10, 2023, and was ruled out for the 2023-24 regular season. He previously had quadriceps surgery during the 2020 postseason and knee surgery twice, in March 2022 and again in October 2022, and missed all of the 2022-23 season. At the time of his second knee surgery, Landeskog was expected to be out 12 weeks.

"I've felt really good now for two straight months physically, with no setbacks, major or minor," Landeskog said. "That's a real positive.

"Without sharing too much, obviously it's a bumpy road and I knew that coming into it, but I didn't realize how hard it was going to be. Especially when you do hit those bumps, when you do get set back and all of the sudden you're off the ice for a month when you think you’re actually going to be ramping it up. …

"There's no point in me setting a timeline or set even a benchmark, for July 1 I want to go game speed, or Aug. 1 I want to be able to do a bag skate, or whatever that might be. You're just setting yourself up to be disappointed and [ticked] off when doesn't happen."

Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland said Landeskog will have all the time he needs to get healthy.

"His injury has been challenging in a lot of ways but not more challenging that what he's going through," MacFarland said. "He loves the game. He's a massive cog in what we're trying to do and he's earned the right to have as much time as it takes to get back on the ice.

"We'll stay in touch with Gabe and continue to pull for him and see where he's at and glean more information. Definitely hopeful and we'll be 100 percent behind him, whether it's September, October, November, whenever that day is, we'll be super excited to see it."

Landeskog last played June 26, 2022, when he had an assist to help Colorado win the Stanley Cup with a 2-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Cup Final.

He said he is no longer focusing on being the first player to resume his career after the cartilage transplant surgery.

"I've sort of let go, kind of being the first to do this, a little bit for myself as well, because it takes some pressure off of me," Landeskog said. "And I just want to get healthy, get back to playing hockey, get back to being with my teammates and playing in front of our amazing fans.

"Whether I'm the first or somebody else has done it before, it doesn't really matter. [It's] more so important to me to take every step as it's supposed to be and make adjustments along the way and be able to skate without pain."

In March, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Landeskog could return during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, depending on how far the Avalanche advanced. Colorado lost to the Dallas Stars in six games in the Western Conference Second Round.

Landeskog said not being able to play in the postseason was "just kind of a slow form of torture."

"How close did I get? I guess we'll never really know," he said. "Mentally I felt pretty close at times. I'm like, 'All right, well, I can do this. I can go out there for a few shifts here and there.' But I think the best decision was for me to focus on what I was doing throughout the entire playoffs. As hard as it was and as much as I wanted to be out there, it was ultimately the best decision for my health and, I think long term, for this organization as well."

Still, his presence had a positive impact on the team.

"I think having him around, it's just good for morale all around, especially knowing that he's working to try and get back," Bednar said last month. "They see how hard he works off the ice, in the gym, and he's hitting the ice occasionally now and working on his rehab. I mean, I think everyone's rooting for him and I think he's just another guy helping to keep the train on the right tracks."

Landeskog has not played more than 54 games in a full NHL season since 2018-19, but he's been productive when healthy; selected by Colorado with the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, he has 571 points (248 goals, 323 assists) in 738 regular-season games, and has scored at least 25 goals four times, including 30 in 51 games in 2021-22, his last season on the ice.

He also has 67 points (27 goals, 40 assists) in 69 playoff games.

Landeskog was on the ice in April for several practices during the Avalanche's first-round series against the Winnipeg Jets. He was in sweats, passing to his teammates.

"There is a program and there are steps that need to be met," Landeskog said. "But they're fluid, and if things go well, then we'll follow this plan, and if they don't, we'll tweak it and adjust as we go."