DENVER (AP) — Gabriel Landeskog may have sacrificed his injured right knee to hoist the Stanley Cup for the Colorado Avalanche. Now, he’s willing to take an extreme step to try to play hockey again.
Landeskog is set to undergo cartilage replacement surgery Wednesday, sidelining him for a second consecutive full NHL season and giving the longtime captain an uncertain path back. He has not contemplated retirement and is confident he’ll be able to resume his career after a third procedure on the knee in roughly 14 months.
“I just have to do what’s right for my health and really, ultimately, do what I can so I’m able to go out there and play with the guys and continue chasing more Stanley Cups,” Landeskog said on a Zoom call Tuesday. “Is it going to be a long road? Yeah. But motivating factors are plenty.”
The 30-year-old Swede is motivated most by the desire to get back to hockey’s mountaintop. Landeskog has not played since the Cup clincher at Tampa Bay on June 26, the end of the franchise’s third title run that he was a big part of with 22 points in 20 games.
That masterful performance came after the first operation in March and was followed by another in October. In between, Landeskog played through chronic pain to win a championship.
“It says everything about Gabe: He’s a winner and he drives the emotional barometer of our team in so many ways,” Colorado general manager Chris MacFarland said. “What he did last year and how he played and battled through something, I know that (is something) we’ll never forget.”
Landeskog was given the option of this surgery last fall but thought something less invasive could get him back on the ice. Initially projected to miss 12 weeks, he did not play all season and in April was ruled out for the playoffs.
In recent weeks he has spoken with Lonzo Ball of the Chicago Bulls, who underwent knee cartilage replacement in March, picking the brain of the NBA player who has experienced a similarly tough journey through injury. That and research — the most studying he has done since high school — helped Landeskog reach this decision.
“It’s an injury that’s hard to rehab,” Landeskog said. “Once the injury is done and there’s enough damage in there, it’s sort of hard to patch the holes without going through this procedure at this time with the symptoms that I have and with what I’m experiencing.”
Retired defenseman Marc Methot knows all about it, having had the same knee cartilage replacement with the same Bulls doctor, Brian Cole at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, that Landeskog is being operated on Wednesday. Methot never played again after having it in 2019.
“I’m sure he’s had the same conversation with Dr. Cole where he won’t be promised anything,” Methot told The Associated Press by phone Tuesday. “He said: ‘There’s no certainty that you’re going to feel the way you did when you left. This is a very difficult one to come back from as far as coming back and feeling the way you did prior.’”
Landeskog’s understanding is the surgery has an 85% success rate. Methot’s went smoothly, too, and helped him in every day activities, but getting back to playing in the NHL is another level.
“It’s an uncommon procedure for elite athletes,” Landeskog acknowledged. “I know it’s not going to be perfect right off the get-go and it’s a long time away from the game. But … I know that I can get myself ready and I know with the right guidance and with the right people around me, I am confident that I’ll get back out there and make a big impact on the ice.”
While not ruling out a return for the playoffs next year, Landeskog said it’s too early to put a timeframe on when he’ll return. In the meantime, the Avalanche must plan for life without Landeskog, which includes long-term injury relief for his $7 million salary cap hit but is not enough consolation for losing a player who has been captain since 2012 when he was 19 and has played 807 regular-season and playoff games for the team.
“Gabe Landeskog is a really special player and while the knowledge of his situation certainly helps, replacing him is an entirely different conversation,” MacFarland said.
NOTES: MacFarland said he couldn’t comment on the situation with forward Valeri Nichushkin, who missed the final five postseason games against Seattle for what the team described as personal reasons. “I can’t comment on anything Val related other than to say he was a very important part of our team in the past. That’s our hope, that he’s going to be a very important part of our team in the future for sure,” MacFarland said. … Goaltender Pavel Francouz underwent a procedure on his adductor. Defenseman Josh Manson also had an unspecified procedure. … Forward Artturi Lehkonen returned from a broken finger only to later break a toe. … MacFarland didn’t think any procedures were planned to fix a fracture in the neck of forward Andrew Cogliano.
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