Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram cleared for return at Penguins

Feb. 5—Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram has a positive spin on an injury that's kept him out for the past three months.

"I'm just happy it wasn't my head," Byram said.

Byram, with a well-documented history of concussions, has been cleared for return in Tuesday night's road tilt at the Penguins — in Colorado's first game back from the All-Star Break. Byram has not played since early November with a lower-body injury that he described as "finnicky."

Byram, initially designated as week-to-week for return, has missed the last 38 Avalanche games.

"I don't think anything went wrong," Byram said. "It's a finnicky injury that you don't really know what the timeline is, you know? ... It took two-and-a-half months and that's what it is. It's behind me know. I'm just excited to get going again."

His delayed return was not the product of laziness.

Byram skated in a red no-contact sweater for weeks with the team before finally shedding it for a normal jersey in Sunday's practice. The second-pair defenseman said he felt back to 100% last week with no plans to rush his comeback; especially with Colorado winning seven of eight games entering the All-Star break.

"He's ready to go," coach Jared Bednar said. "He was probably knocking on the door before the break. We just felt like rushing him back to play one game or two games right before the break probably wasn't the best idea, considering how long he's been out. He's worked hard over the break, too, to get ready. He looks good."

Byram returns much needed high-end skill to the Avs' defensive corps.

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He was critical to Colorado's run to winning the Stanley Cup; quarterbacking the team's second power-play unit with defenseman Sam Girard breaking his sternum. Byram, playing beside Josh Manson on the second defensive pairing, recorded two goals and three assists over 10 games this season prior to injury.

"Everyone that's come in has done a great job," Byram said. "We've had a lot of (defensemen) eating up a lot of minutes. Just trying to help out with that. Guys like Cale (Makar) and (Devon Toews) have been playing 25-plus (minutes) every night. That takes a toll on you eventually. (I want to) just come in and hopefully make their job a bit easier."

Health updates

Manson (lower body) skated over the break but did not join the team Sunday for practice. Bednar said Manson is "making progress" but it's unknown if he will travel on the team's three-game road swing. Forward Valeri Nichushkin (upper body) will be available to play in Pittsburgh.

Forward Gabe Landeskog (knee surgery) is expected to resume skating soon.

"We don't have a nailed-down date on when he's coming back yet," Bednar said of Landeskog. "But it will be fairly soon."

What's next: The Colorado Avalanche (27-18-3) travel to face the Pittsburgh Penguins (24-16-9), 5 p.m. Tuesday (Altitude TV) at PPG Paints Arena.