NHL

Avalanche's Landeskog returns to ice as he recovers

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Associated Press
2/20/2013 4:57:11 PM
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DENVER -- Gabriel Landeskog stood out on the ice while going through up-tempo drills with his teammates at the morning skate on Wednesday.

For the moment, that's simply because his pumpkin orange jersey was hard to miss. Maybe soon, it will again be for his play as he steadily recovers from a concussion.

The Colorado Avalanche captain went full-speed in the morning session -- donning a brightly colored sweater to signify no contact -- but he missed his 11th straight game Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues.

He hopes he can return to the lineup soon, maybe for a three-game road swing through California that kicks off this weekend. He's not quite sure yet on timing.

This much Landeskog does know: He won't change his aggressive style, even after the crunching hit that's sidelined him for nearly a month of this lockout-shortened season.

That said, Landeskog insisted he will be better aware of his surroundings on the ice. The forward was concentrating on bringing the puck up the ice when he took a blow from San Jose defenceman Brad Stuart in late January.

That hit led to headaches and sensitivity to light. But those symptoms are clearing up and Landeskog recently returned to practice.

Now, he's trying to round back into game shape after the lengthy layoff.

"My hands aren't quite there yet, feet aren't quite there. My lungs aren't quite there," said Landeskog, who was the league's rookie of the year last season when he scored 22 goals and dished out 30 assists. "But I'm working on it, trying to get better every day."

He's watched the video of the hit over and over. Each time he almost wants to scream at his image on the screen to look up, especially with Stuart rapidly approaching and ready to deliver a shoulder into his midsection.

"Didn't really see him coming," Landeskog said. "I didn't think he was coming at that speed. You've got to be smart like that. You should know he's a physical player and he's coming. Part of the responsibility is on me."

Landeskog said he didn't have any dizziness from the hit, or any nausea. His memory is perfectly fine, too. But his head almost felt like it was under some sort of pressure.

"But I'm feeling a lot better now," he said. "It's frustrating and it's tough."

Especially since the wallop happened just four games into his leadership. In early September, the Avs made Landeskog the youngest captain in NHL history at 19 years, 286 days. He was 11 days younger than Sidney Crosby, when he became leader of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With Landeskog sidelined, the team has struggled at times to get on track.

"I'm anxious to get back in the lineup and help the team, take the load off some of the guys playing a lot," Landeskog said.

When exactly that might be, well, it's still up in the air. The plan is for him to skate Friday at practice and then reassess how he feels.

The Avs play in Los Angeles on Saturday and again the following night in Anaheim. They close out the trip on Tuesday at San Jose, where Landeskog was injured on Jan. 26.

"There's always a chance he can make the trip with us," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "He's in good spirits. He seems very excited out there. His energy level is up. It's a huge positive for our club.

"It's great to see him out there."

As for the status of Erik Johnson, Sacco said the defenceman remains sidelined with a head injury. There was no update on when he might return to the ice.

That's the thing about head injuries: It's simply a wait-and-see approach.

"You can't really put a Band-Aid on it and go out there and play," Landeskog said. "You only have one brain and you've got to take care of it."

Gabriel Landeskog (Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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