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Under normal circumstances, Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews would have missed at least eight games after taking a shot off his foot in the Jan. 28 win over San Jose.
But nothing is normal these days. The Avalanche’s season was put on pause earlier this month due to COVID-19, meaning Toews will have missed only three games if he returns Sunday at Vegas.
“A little blessing in disguise for us getting this break and getting more than just me a little healthier,” he said after practice Friday. “I feel pretty good on the ice and things are starting to come back slowly — it wasn’t too long of a break so that was nice and the trainers and staff have done a great job getting me ready.”
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Toews and centers Nathan MacKinnon (lower body injury Jan. 31) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (lower body injury Jan. 28) had “no complications” after returning to practice Thursday and they skated again Friday.
The Avalanche (7-3-1) hasn’t played since a 2-1 win over Minnesota on Feb. 2. Prohibited from practicing or skating, the Avs returned to the ice Thursday.
Toews was off to a strong start at the time of his injury. In eight games, he had eclipsed 20 minutes of ice time six times (including twice over 25 minutes) and three goals and two assists.
If he plays Sunday, it will be nearly three weeks since his last game.
“The conditioning aspect of the game is a little different than practice so getting used to that is probably the hardest part and there is no way (of improving that) besides playing in games,” Toews said. “The footwork comes (back) naturally.”
Bellemare was injured in the same game as Toews, hurt in an awkward, neutral-zone collision with San Jose’s Ryan Donato, who appeared to lose an edge while trying to avoid Bellemare.
“When it happened, the way guys were talking on the ice about me, I was like, ‘Oh, this is not good,’ and I couldn’t feel like I could put any weight on it,” Bellemare said.
Once Bellemare was examined in the locker room, he felt better about his short- and long-term availability.
“It looked worse than it was,” he said.
The Avalanche’s pause forced Bellemare to rehabilitate at home. He said his son was more interested in the giant rubber bands his dad was using and his 17-month daughter was trying to imitate his exercises.
“Suddenly, we got shut down and you don’t have to worry about rushing the rehab,” he said. “It’s not easy doing the rehab at home, but the positive side is I didn’t have to stress so much about coming back (quickly).”
Footnotes. The Avalanche practiced Friday, its second skate since the pause. “Our group was much better, as we expected them to be, compared to (Thursday),” Bednar said. … Bednar said defenseman Samuel Girard, left wing Gabriel Landeskog and center Tyson Jost won’t make the trip to Las Vegas (COVID-19 protocols). … Bednar said left wing Matt Calvert, out since Jan. 24 (upper body), could skate Saturday or Sunday. “He’s going through a quarantine as he did some travel to get looked at and get evaluated and get some help for his injury,” Bednar said. “He’s back in town and working on his own.”