Lever eyes return for injury-hit Demons

Jake Lever's imminent return has given injury-battered Melbourne cause for cheer as they prepare to revisit the scene of last year's AFL preliminary final demolition.

Coach Simon Goodwin has confirmed Lever, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in round 11 last season, will play in the VFL this weekend.

It is a welcome boost for a bottom-four Demons side that has a mounting injury toll ahead of Friday night's clash with premiers West Coast in Perth.

Michael Hibberd (collarbone) will miss a fortnight and Jake Melksham (foot) is out for at least a month after both were hurt during Saturday's last-gasp win over Gold Coast.

Veteran defender Jordan Lewis (ankle) will have a fitness test as Melbourne prepare to face their demons at Optus Stadium, where a season of so much promise last year ended in a 66-point thrashing at the hands of the Eagles.

The highly-fancied Dees were held goalless to halftime and smashed at the contests by a hardened West Coast.

Goodwin raised eyebrows pre-season when he declared he hadn't bothered replaying the game in full, believing it wouldn't provide much insight.

The Demons subsequently lost five of their first six matches but Goodwin insisted the bruising loss hadn't taken a mental toll on his players.

"A lot's been spoken about and a lot of stories (written) about potentially what it was but in the end, we just haven't played good footy," he said.

"Right now, we feel like our game's getting in better shape. That's really what our focus has been the last three to four weeks - what we can do and what our team is capable of.

"We're slowly, slowly improving as we go through the year."

Goodwin said he was proud of his team's resilience to scratch out narrow wins over Hawthorn (five points) and Gold Coast (one point) over the past fortnight.

With Lever eyeing a senior return in the coming weeks, fellow key defender Steven May (groin) will also play at some level before the midyear bye.

The Dees are likely to recall Braydon Preuss to partner Max Gawn in the ruck, with both Nathan Vardy and Tom Hickey expected to play for West Coast.

Vardy and Scott Lycett, who now plays for Port Adelaide, double-teamed Gawn to perfection during the preliminary final.

"West Coast had a pretty good plan against Maxy previously," Goodwin said.

"We'll be pretty well-prepared, whether it's Braydon or whether it's someone else."