For Lehkonen, it will be his first game in well over two months. When you stop to think about how much time he’s missed, it’s kind of remarkable. The Finnish forward, who is a man of very few words, has been skating with the team for a few weeks now, and Bednar isn’t concerned about his conditioning levels.
After morning skate, I asked him if the mental part of returning from an injury like this is almost tougher than the physical portion.
“Yeah, I mean, of course it takes a while,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a good head space, and ready to help the team win some games again.”
Bednar said that he plans to ease him back into the lineup after missing so much time, but is that hard to do with a guy you normally trust to play 20 minutes a night?
“Yeah, we’ll see how he plays,” Bednar said with a laugh. “He’s still going to get a regular shift and play special teams. Probably not going to start at 20 minutes a night like he was used to.”
On defense, you have Bowen Byram returning to the lineup. He left the game on Jan. 4 with a lower-body injury and was originally scheduled to miss 7-14 days, but it ended up being a bit longer.
“Just kind of a gray area kind of thing. I don’t know how to explain it,” Byram said about the injury. “I just wanted to make sure I was 100% when I came back. With the All-Star break coming up, we kind of thought about maybe waiting until after, but I progressed pretty quickly and started feeling really good, so I said ‘why not?'”
Whenever he’s spoken with the media, Byram has been very critical of himself and his game this season. That continued on Wednesday, but he’s hoping that a few weeks away will be good for him.
“It’s no secret I haven’t been at my best the first half of the year,” he said. “Sometimes you just need a little reset to get going, so super excited to be back.”
Other Lineup Notes
- It will not be Sam Malinski exiting the lineup for Byram. Jack Johnson has been battling a lower-body injury of late and they’re going to give him the night off. Bednar said that Johnson could play if they wanted him to, but with Byram back, they now have options. However, it did sound like they want Johnson back for the game on Friday against Los Angeles. The Avalanche may change things up depending on what team they play for a while.
- Alexandar Georgiev will start in net for the Avalanche.
- Lehkonen will not play on the top powerplay unit, at least to start. Ross Colton practiced with the top unit again and will stick there for the time being.
- Gabriel Landeskog did skate before everyone else, and stuck around a bit with the team. I will say he looks more confident moving around this year, but still a ways to go.
- The Capitals played last night in Minnesota and we won’t know their lineup until a few hours before the game.