DENVER - Joe Sakic simply didn't have enough time remaining to ready himself for a return.
So, the longtime Colorado Avalanche captain is calling it a season. A career, too? That's a decision for down the road. Sakic, who's in his 20th season, said Thursday night he's still weeks away from returning as the strength in his left leg hasn't fully come back following January surgery to repair a herniated disk.
He's disappointed. He desperately wanted to make it back for one of the two remaining home games.
It just didn't pan out.
"We worked hard," Sakic said after the Avalanche's 3-2 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars. "It's come a long way."
Just not far enough.
"I was looking forward to" his return, said coach Tony Granato, whose team closes out the season Sunday by hosting St. Louis. "You could see the last few days how hard he pushed it to get to that next level. He felt he was a week or two away. He gave it everything he had."
That's classic Sakic.
But the leg just didn't respond to rehab as quickly as he'd hoped. He had lost too much muscle strength, part of the slow process of nerve regeneration.
"It is getting better, I'm very happy with the progress on that, but it didn't happen as quick as I like," he said.
The 39-year-old Sakic hasn't played since his balky back knocked him out of a Nov. 28 game at Phoenix.
In December, Sakic damaged his left hand in a snow blower accident when he tried to clear snow from the machine at his home.
While sidelined, he underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk.
Once optimistic about a possible return this season, Sakic came to the realization he had to shut it down.
Or take the chance of further damage.
"We kind of ran out of time and you don't want to go out there and risk anything," said Sakic, who's eighth on the NHL's career list in points (1,641) and 11th in assists (1,016).
It's been another injury-filled season for Sakic, who decided to return for a 20th year after flirting with retirement during the off-season. Sakic also had a trying season in 2007-08, missing 38 games after hernia surgery.
This season has been even more taxing as he's suited up for just 15 contests.
The growing assortment of injuries over the last two seasons may cause Sakic take a long look at whether he returns for a 21st season.
That's something he won't even think about that until later.
However, he's promised not to take as long as last summer, when he didn't announce his intention to return until the eve of training camp.
Sakic also has admitted a desire to play for Canada in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
First things first though - getting back to health.
"I'm still going to rehab and try to get 100 per cent," Sakic said. "Once you're there and really healthy, you can start training - and sit down and decide where you want to go."