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Cale Makar cleared to return 2nd time from concussion protocol

NHL: All-Star Skills Competition

Feb 3, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Colorado Avalanche defensemen Cale Makar (8) skates during the fastest skater in the 2023 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER -- Defenseman Cale Makar has been cleared to return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup after two different hits over an 11-day span landed him both times in the league’s concussion protocol.

“Ready to go,” Makar told reporters about his plans to play in Dallas.

The Norris Trophy winner missed five straight games and nine of the last 10 due to two separate hits involving his head. He suffered the first one Feb. 7 at Pittsburgh, returned to play a game but then left again after taking a glove to his visor at St. Louis on Feb. 18.

“I can’t put myself in positions to take those kind of hits,” Makar said after practice. “But at the same time stuff happens. Couple of unlucky bounces.”

Makar leads the league in ice time with an average of nearly 27 minutes a game. He’s also tops among Colorado defensemen with 13 goals and 45 points.

The Stanley Cup champions took care of business in his absence. They trail the Stars by six points for the top spot in the Central Division (and played three fewer games than Dallas).

“I love watching hockey. But I hate watching my own games,” the 24-year-old Makar said. “These things take time and I think us as a team and individuals understand that. There’s no pressure from anybody in terms of trying to rush back.

“Obviously, there’s jokes and stuff, guys want you to come back earlier, but at points like this, you have to do what’s in your best interest. I’ve felt I kind of put that at the forefront lately and the team’s helped me do that.”

Makar took his first hit to the head in a collision with Pittsburgh’s Jeff Carter on Feb. 7. Makar passed all of the NHL’s concussion testing to clear protocol and told team medical staff that he felt good about returning.

In his first game back on Feb. 18, Makar was reinjured early in the third period when St. Louis forward Alexey Toropchenko made contact with his face with his right glove as they went after a loose puck.

Makar explained that his symptoms were mild after the second hit, but didn’t rush back in light of the first one.

“I’m not going to put myself in a situation where I can hurt myself more,” Makar said. “I would have been more inclined to feel like playing if I didn’t have that first collision after this one. I think it would have been fine. Obviously you don’t want these things to compound.”

He added: “There are so many things that we still have to learn about injuries like this. I still think the league does its best to protect guys from this.”

NOTES: Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said defenseman Josh Manson was going to miss some time. Bednar said it’s related to a lower-body injury that kept Manson out for 31 games from Dec. 3 to Feb. 14. ... Forward Valeri Nichushkin was sick and Bednar wasn’t sure if he would play.