Erik Johnson (head) cleared for contact

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The Colorado Avalanche got a key player back in Ryan O’Reilly on Sunday. From the look of things, important defenseman Erik Johnson might not be too far behind.

Johnson was cleared for contact and practiced hard on Sunday, according to the Denver Post. He’s been sidelined with a head injury since Feb. 11.

The 24-year-old blueliner was having a disappointing season (at least offensively) before getting hurt, as he failed to score a goal and had just one assist in 11 games. Still, he’s a big part of the Avalanche defense, averaging about 21 minutes per game the last two seasons.

It sounds like Johnson has an outside chance at playing against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, although it’s likely that he’ll need some more time.

Fellow defenseman Ryan Wilson (ankle) also practiced on Sunday. Technically, there’s no timetable for a return for either blueliner, although both are traveling with the team.

(H/T to Rotoworld)

Slepyshev earns final Oilers roster spot; Draisaitl to AHL

Anton Slepyshev, Anton Lander
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The Edmonton Oilers have assigned center Leon Draisaitl to AHL Bakersfield.

The demotion of Draisaitl, 19, means 21-year-old rookie Anton Slepyshev has made the opening-day roster after scoring twice and adding two assists in exhibition action.

The Oilers experimented during the preseason with Draisaitl, a natural center, on the wing. He didn’t have a particularly poor camp, finishing with one goal and three assists in six games.

But Slepyshev apparently impressed more.

“He’s a young player but he’s played pro hockey before,” coach Todd McLellan told the Edmonton Journal. “You can see it.”

Slepyshev played 58 games in the KHL last season, scoring 15 goals for Salavat Yulaev Ufa.

Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado

Jared McCann, Connor McDavid, Ben Hutton

A preseason push by a number of Vancouver Canucks youngsters has left forward Linden Vey and defenseman Frank Corrado on waivers today.

The more surprising name of the two is Corrado, the 22-year-old who entered the season with an excellent chance of making the opening-day roster. However, it seems that rookie d-man Ben Hutton, 22, has been given the nod after finishing an eye-opening preseason with one goal and four assists in seven games. (This despite Hutton being waiver exempt. So it’s a risk for the Canucks, to be sure.)

It was the play of 19-year-old rookie Jared McCann that led, in part, to the waiving of Vey. (For more on that, click here.) Veteran Adam Cracknell remains with the team as well, to some surprise.

Rookie winger Jake Virtanen is also expected to be on Vancouver’s opening-day roster, though that’s no big shock.

Defenseman Alex Biega is also on waivers, as expected.