CENTENNIAL, Colo. –
For the first time in nearly 10 months, David Jones
felt at home again -- on the South Suburban Family Sports Center ice, where the Colorado Avalanche
held its first training camp practices and scrimmages.
Before Saturday. Jones, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound right wing, hadn't participated in such an intense workout since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last season in a Nov. 28 game in Minnesota. The injury that required reconstructive surgery.
Jones was forced to miss the final 55 regular-season games. He had hopes of suiting up for some first-round playoff games against San Jose, and even took part in some morning skates and non-contact practices -- but never received medical clearance to play.
"It was horrible sitting and watching the guys play in the playoffs, but they did fantastic and I was real proud of my team," he told NHL.com. "I wish I could have been a part of it, but I'm just looking forward to getting a good start in the season. We surprised a bunch of teams early last year and we won't have that luxury this year because we did so well last year."
Jones declared himself "100 percent healthy" after Saturday's sessions in which he skated with a number of linemates, including Ryan O'Reilly
, Ryan Stoa
and Brandon Yip
"It was nice to get back to a full-on scrimmage," he said. "It felt great out there and I'm looking forward to getting the season going. It's nice to get back with the boys and play in a full scrimmage. It's really the first time I've played a full 5-on-5 since last season."
Jones, who turned 26 in August, is expected to skate on the first or second line once the regular season begins, playing with either center Paul Stastny
or Matt Duchene
. He was off to the best start of his brief NHL career with 10 goals and six assists in 23 games when he was injured on a fluke play against the Wild.
"I remember the puck popped up in the air and I grabbed it and put it down," Jones said. "I think (Stastny) pushed the guy (Minnesota's Chuck Kobasew
) and he fell into me. I've only seen it once (on replay) and I didn't want to watch it anymore. Unfortunately, when a guy who weighs 200 pounds falls on your knee, there's not much you can do. I thought I was playing pretty well, too. It (stunk), but it's nothing you can control."
Jones' biggest concern, other than missing the Avalanche's unexpected second-place finish in the Northwest Division and trip to the playoffs, was how the injury would affect one of his best assets – his speed.
"I didn't want to be one of those guys who hurt his knee and came back and didn't have that top-end speed," he said. "I think that happens to a lot of guys who aren't smart about the way they rehab the injury. I've done everything the trainers said and I feel great. It feels exactly the way it did before I got hurt. It's been a long time, but I finally got back out there."
Jones is wearing a protective brace, a device he probably will don throughout the upcoming season, but he feels it shouldn't hamper his game.
"My speed is my biggest asset and it's back to normal," he said. "The biggest thing was getting that first step back off that leg. Going into the playoffs I just didn't have that jump on that side and you can't play at this level when it's not there. I don't think I had that top-end acceleration.
"I'm pretty much up and down the wall; that's my game. If I can't get up to full speed, then I'm not really effective. I was a little bit apprehensive this summer. You work so hard every day and you wonder if it's ever going to get back to where it was. Now, it's definitely back. It was mid-summer where it just kind of clicked in after all the work I did. It's been good since then and I feel great on the ice now."
"It felt great out there and I'm looking forward to getting the season going. It's nice to get back with the boys and play in a full scrimmage. It's really the first time I've played a full 5-on-5 since last season." -- David Jones
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco was encouraged by Jones' play on Saturday but said the power forward still has a ways to go.
"He missed a lot of time last year, and I could tell he wasn't himself yet," Sacco said. "He wasn't really driving the net and he didn't have the pace that he's probably used to having. It's going to take a little bit of time to get back to that after missing so much time like he did last year.
"But he's a big winger for us that can obviously skate. He's got great speed down the wall. He's going to be an important guy for us."