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Mueller set to make long-awaited return for Avs

NHL.com @NHL
NASHVILLE -- Colorado forward Peter Mueller, who has played in only 72 games over the last three seasons (18 with the Avalanche) because of head injuries, will get back in the lineup for the Avalanche on Thursday when they visit the Predators -- Mueller's first game since Oct. 12.

Mueller, 23, was a 22-goal scorer as a rookie for Phoenix in 2007-08. He played the first three games this season but has missed the last 40. He missed all of last season and played in only 15 games in 2009-10, during which he posted an impressive 9 goals and 11 assists.

The Avs activated him off injured reserve on Wednesday. Colorado coach Joe Sacco said it was "exciting."

Peter Mueller
Center - COL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 5 | +/-: 0
"It's exciting for Peter and we've been waiting a long time for him," Sacco said. "And right now Peter's been skating for quite a bit now. We feel he's game-ready now to get back in there and give him a look. He's been chomping at the bit, so it's a good opportunity for him."

Sacco said that Mueller would skate on a line with Paul Stastny and TJ Galiardi and that the 6-foot-2, 204-pound Mueller also would get some power play time.

Mueller said he spent the last month getting himself back into game shape.

"Unfortunately, I had a few sidetracks and it wasn't part of the head or anything, it was just part of getting back in shape and everything like that, and it kind of voided me for about a month," he said. "It (stinks) but it comes with the hockey game. I just want to get back to it."

He said he feels confident about his health.

"Oh, absolutely," he said. "Hopefully, it's not a broken record, but I don't want to go back to where I was at the start of the season, (or) the last year. I want to close the book on this so I don't have to worry about it again."

His return comes at an opportune time for the Avalanche, who have had some bad luck in the injury department of late. Leading goal scorer Matt Duchene has been out with a knee injury since Dec. 29 and is expected to be out a few more weeks. Top defenseman Erik Johnson, who missed Tuesday's game, will be back on Thursday. No. 1 goalie Semyon Varlamov took a puck off the knee in practice on Wednesday and so Sacco said Jean-Sebastien Giguere would start against the Preds on Thursday.

Nonetheless, a win on Thursday could pull the Avs into a tie with Los Angeles for the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

Sacco was asked what advice he has given to a player like Mueller who has missed so much time.

"Just go out and play his game," he said. "With Peter, what we're going to try and what hopefully will happen to him is that something good will happen early. A nice bounce, not necessarily a goal, but a play where he can feel good about himself and kind of gain and establish that confidence again.

"I think we'll keep an eye on him, as far as ice time tonight. Obviously, we want to make sure we don't over-extend him, but basically go out and try to have some fun and get back in the swing of things with the guys. That's real important. Play his game. Because when he plays and when he's effective, he can be a really good player for us. It's going to take some time, too. He's missed a lot of hockey. Keep it simple. Skate and good things will happen for him."
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