DENVER (AP) -- Ray Bourque insists he's returning to the Colorado Avalanche lineup on his own timetable -- not because defensive partner Adam Foote is out with an eye injury.
''Regardless of whether Adam was there or not, you've got to be good enough to go,'' Bourque said Wednesday. ''That's why I'm playing Friday, because I'm well enough.''
Bourque, the Hall of Fame-bound defenseman who has missed the last four playoff games because of a strained left knee, practiced hard and, for the first time, took contact in Wednesday's workout.
Afterward, he pronounced himself ready to play in Game 3 of the Avalanche's Western Conference final series against Dallas, set for Friday night in Denver, where the Avalanche are 6-0 this postseason.
The Stars' 3-2 home victory Monday night squared the best-of-seven series 1-1.
Colorado coach Bob Hartley hinted a day earlier that Bourque would return for Game 3, and Bourque made it official.
''It felt good,'' Bourque said. ''I went through practice and it went very well. I'm where I need to be. So it's a go for Friday, and I'm anxious to get going.''
Bourque, injured in the third game of the conference semifinal series against Detroit on May 1, skated on his own following the injury and rejoined his teammates during workouts late last week. Wednesday's workout, featuring his first contact, was a breakthrough.
''I did everything today,'' he said. ''I did a lot of one-on-ones, a lot of grinding in the corners. I felt very good.
''I've kind of turned the corner, and that's what I've waited for over the last week or so.''
He said Colorado's victory in the series opener on Saturday gave him the luxury of skipping Game 2 and using the three days off before Game 3 to get ready.
''The first win in the series really bought me some time,'' he said. ''It allowed me to take these three days and make sure I felt really good.''
Bourque and Foote have been a force in the playoffs. Even without Bourque, Foote had shut down Dallas' Mike Modano in a 2-0 victory in Game 1. With Foote exiting early in Game 2, Modano found more room to skate and scored two goals in Dallas' 3-2 win.
Now Bourque will accept the burden.
''Adam is a warrior and he's a big part of this team,'' Bourque said. ''The good thing is the injury could have been worse, and he'll be back. When, exactly, we're not sure. But we've just got to hold the fort.
''We've shown on many occasions in the last month or so how much heart this team has in picking up the slack whenever somebody has gone down.''
There was much nail-biting, for instance, when Bourque was hurt, but the Avalanche went 3-1 without him.
Bourque, who will wear a brace on his knee, insisted he expects to continue getting significant amounts of ice time, just as he did before the injury.
His teammates were confident they can weather Foote's injury just as they did Bourque's.
''This is not a one- or two-man team,'' said defenseman Aaron Miller, who likely will be paired with Bourque on Friday night. ''Adam is a great player, but there's a lot of talent on this team. Among 20 guys, you can certainly pick up the slack.''
A year ago in the conference finals, Dallas and Colorado also were tied 1-1 after the first two games in Dallas. The Stars won that series in seven games en route to capturing the Stanley Cup.
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