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Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar back in concussion protocol

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Pittsburgh Penguins

Feb 7, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (8) takes the ice to play the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar is back in concussion protocol after taking contact to his head for a second time in under two weeks, another blow for the defending Stanley Cup champions and their reigning playoff MVP.

Coach Jared Bednar provided the update on Makar’s status, ruling out the 24-year-old Norris Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner for at least the team’s next two games.

Makar was reinjured early in the third period in his first game back when St. Louis forward Alexey Toropchenko made contact with his head. He already missed Colorado’s game against Edmonton.

Bednar said Makar’s head injuries were “obviously related” and did not think the play alone would have caused this development.

Makar had been out since taking a hit to the head on Feb. 7 from Pittsburgh’s Jeff Carter. Bednar said Makar passed all the NHL’s concussion testing to clear protocol and told team medical staff that he felt good about returning.

“He comes back in, he feels better, he takes the time he needs, he’s feeling good to play, he’s passed all the tests, he comes back in and he gets bumped again,” Bednar said. “I don’t think that he goes into protocol on the hit in St. Louis with the glove to the face on any other occasion, likely, except for the fact that he’s just coming out of one.”

Makar missed four games last month with an unrelated lower-body injury before coming back before the All-Star break. Makar this season is averaging a league-high 26:57 of ice time and producing at a nearly point-a-game level with 13 goals and 32 assists.

Bednar defended the league’s concussion protocol and how the Avalanche handled it with Makar when asked repeatedly.

“We follow it,” He said. “It’s crystal clear. There’s really no wiggle room in it. Sometimes players get delayed symptoms. He came in the other night and he had a headache and some pressure in his head, and that’s all we have to hear and he’s out. It’s automatic.”

Bednar confirmed Makar was pulled from the Feb. 7 game against the Penguins by a concussion spotter in place to observe obvious signs of head injuries. NHL protocol also calls for mandatory baseline testing and six stages of progression a player needs to pass through before getting back on the ice in a game.

“We listen to the player once all the tests are passed,” Bednar said. “The protocol’s in place because they deem it the best protocol to make sure players are safe and able or unable to return to play. And when they are able, then they will return to play.”

Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev missed practice to undergo dental work and is expected to be full go, according to Bednar, who also said defenseman Josh Manson was out for maintenance reasons. Bednar said veteran defenseman Erik Johnson is “possibly” done for the season because of a broken ankle.

The Avalanche have been one of the most banged-up teams in the league this season, missing Makar, top center Nathan MacKinnon and others for long stretches. Captain Gabriel Landeskog, who hoisted the Cup last summer to celebrate the franchise’s third championship, still has not made his season debut following knee surgery in October.