He missed 11 games because of a concussion, but there was no way of accurately measuring how much the 7-8-1 Colorado Avalanche actually missed their young captain, Gabriel Landeskog, during his absence.
Landeskog, last year's NHL rookie of the year, returned Saturday afternoon in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings – and it was a good news/bad news sort of day for him. The good news: Landeskog emerged from the game without any new health issues. The bad: The Avalanche weren't ever really in the game, giving up a goal in the first minute of play and then a shorthanded goal early in the second soon after they'd closed to within one, that took all their momentum away.
First, the concussion update from Landeskog:
"I was feeling good. Health-wise, I was feeling good. My head feels good. Conditioning, hands, timing, details, that's going to come. But right now, I don't really have time to feel my way into things. We're in the heat of things and gotta get those two points and unfortunately, we didn't tonight."
Landeskog played mostly on a line with Paul Stastny and David Jones and acknowledged that he was "really rusty handling the puck.
"It was exciting to be back, obviously. Tough game though. L.A. came out hard. They were strong on the puck. They made us play in our zone."
Landeskog was injured in the fourth game of the season on a crushing open-ice hit by the San Jose Sharks' defenceman Brad Stuart. In the days leading up to his return, Landeskog took some of the blame for what happened on the play, noting: "Watching that video again, it kind of strengthened my opinion that I had my head down. I didn't really see him coming," he said. "You've got to be smart around a guy like that. You've got to know that he's a physical player and that he's coming."
Now 20, Landeskog was named Avalanche captain back on Sep. 4 of last year, becoming the youngest captain in NHL history at 19 years, 286 days. He was 11 days younger than Sidney Crosby, who was 19 years, 297 days when he was named Pittsburgh Penguins captain back in 2007.
In the final minute of the first period against L.A., Landeskog made a great pass to a wide-open Stastny at the side of the goal. It looked as if he had Kings' goaltender Jonathan Quick in a vulnerable position, but Stastny couldn't get the puck past him. Landeskog did earn an assist on Milan Hedjuk's power-play goal early in the second. Overall, he played 24 shifts in 19 minutes and eight seconds and registered four official hits.