What Gabriel Landeskog's Return Will Mean to the Colorado Avalanche
It's been a frustrating 2013 season for Colorado Avalanche fans. Their team has struggled to win games consistently and RFA center Ryan O'Reilly has not re-signed.
There is some good news, however, because captain Gabriel Landeskog could return to game action soon. The team captain suffered a concussion in the fourth game of the season as a result of a huge hit from San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart.
According to Adrian Dater of The Denver Post, the 20-year-old forward might travel with the team this weekend.
Landeskog speaks to media, says he feels good, could go on weekend Cali road trip— adater (@adater) February 20, 2013
Here's a video of Landeskog giving an update to reporters after skating earlier this week.
Landeskog's return to the lineup will have a dramatic impact on the team's performance at both ends of the ice.
As one of the premier two-way wingers in the game, Landeskog will add a physical presence to the Avalanche lineup. He's someone who will be responsible defensively by backchecking and blocking shots.
Without O'Reilly and Landeskog in the lineup, the Avalanche don't have a forward who can shut down opposing teams' best goal scorers.
He will also improve Colorado's special teams. The Avalanche penalty kill is ranked 22nd in the league, and there's no question Landeskog will play a key role in this area of the game when he returns. The young winger ranked second on the Avalanche among forwards in short-handed time on ice last season.
The Avalanche power play has also struggled in 2013 without two of its best scorers in O'Reilly and Landeskog. The captain's six power-play goals were the second-most on the team last season, and his 12 power-play points ranked fourth.
Landeskog's ability to score goals, create plays with his vision and passing skills, and also keep possession in the attacking zone by winning puck battles below the goal line will be valuable additions to the team's power play.
Overall, the Avalanche rank 22nd in goals scored, so getting their third-highest scorer (52 points) from last season is certainly going to help. Landeskog and star center Matt Duchene will be a productive duo on the top line that will give good defensive teams problems every night.
Will the Avalanche make the playoffs?
In addition to his contributions at each end of the ice, Landeskog's leadership will be a tremendous boost to the team.
Even though he's the youngest captain in NHL history, Landeskog's ability to motivate his teammates is quite impressive. He's a fantastic leader whose hard work and effort sets a great example for his teammates to follow.
The Avalanche are in 13th place in the Western Conference with 13 points through 15 games, but they are only four points behind the Dallas Stars, who are in the eighth and final playoff spot.
Landeskog isn't ready to join his teammates for real game action yet, but the progress that he has made in his recovery from a concussion is an encouraging sign for the Avalanche.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.
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