Sharks back to full strength for clash with Avalanche

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The Colorado Avalanche have absorbed several injuries at the start of the season, but it looks like they’ve avoided yet another.

Defenseman Bowen Byram left Thursday’s game against Vancouver after taking an elbow to the head and didn’t return. The fear was he would join Nathan MacKinnon on the injured list, but Byram was on the ice for Friday’s practice.

It is an indication that Byram will be in the lineup when Colorado hosts the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

Byram has had a strong start to this season, ranking third in scoring among rookies (three goals, eight points) heading into Friday’s schedule. He has played the point on the power play and has become one of the top-six defensemen in the rotation.

The Avalanche faces a San Jose team that has dealt with several absences due to positive COVID-19 tests. Seven players and head coach Bob Boughner were out but have returned and will be available for Saturday night’s game.

Kevin Labanc, Erik Karlsson, Timo Meier, Jake Middleton, Matt Nieto, Radim Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were activated from COVID-19 protocols, it was announced Friday. Boughner’s return also was announced.

Boughner, Karlsson, Middleton, Nieto, Simek and Vlasic were placed in protocols before the Sharks played Winnipeg on Oct. 30.

Assistant coach John McLean led the team while Boughner was sidelined, and San Jose went 3-2-1 in those games.

The Sharks are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Jets on Thursday night but are pleased with how they survived the absence of their head coach and several players.

“You go 1-5, you put yourself behind the eight ball,” Nick Bonino said. “So to come out of this with a winning record and continue on the road with maybe some guys back is really big for us.”

Colorado will still be without its star MacKinnon, who is expected to miss approximately three weeks with a lower-body injury. It’s his second stint away from the team — he missed the first two games of the season after testing positive for COVID-19 just before the opener on Oct. 13.

The Avalanche survived without him on Thursday in a 7-1 rout of the Canucks. It was their first game in five days and comes during a stretch when they played just four games in a span of 13 days. The gap was due to having two games against Columbus originally slated to be played in Finland, but they were eventually moved out of Helsinki due to COVID-19.

Colorado and the Blue Jackets played a home-and-home series last week instead.

The schedule gets heavier in the second half of November, so getting the win Thursday will help going into a busier time.

“I think that was huge for us, probably one of our most complete efforts all year so far,” said defenseman Devon Toews, who has played the last two games after missing the first nine while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. “Defensively, offensively, we were on and we played well. There (are) obviously some things we want to clean up, but for a full 60 that was a pretty good effort from us.”

–Field Level Media

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