Forsberg hopes to play in Avs' next homestand

The Canadian Press
By: The Canadian Press
Feb 27, 2008
The Hockey News

Forsberg hopes to play in Avs' next homestand

The Canadian Press
By: The Canadian Press
Feb 27, 2008

VANCOUVER - Star centre Peter Forsberg hopes to play in at least one of the Colorado Avalanche's next four home games.

He made the statement Wednesday night before his new club took to the ice against the Vancouver Canucks in the final of a five-game NHL road trip.

"It felt good on the ice," he told a news conference after skating for the first time in North America after two surgeries to cure a nagging foot injury.

"I felt it was great for me to get out and skate get some sweat going and hopefully I can start playing soon."

Forsberg, 34, who re-signed with his former club on the weekend before Tuesday's NHL trade deadline, was one of the last players off the ice but he said he's not yet in top game shape.

The Avs play their next home game Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings but Forsberg did not fly home with the team. He has to remain in Vancouver until paperwork allowing him to work in the U.S. is completed.

He was whisked from practice to the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver. His return can't come too soon as the Avs began Wednesday's play two points out of the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth.

"I don't know if it's going to be Saturday," Forsberg said of his first opportunity to play. "Of course you like to get in a real good practice before you start playing.

"I hope everybody understands. It might take a few games to get back. I've been nursing the foot problem for a long time. I don't know how it's going to go. Of course I'm nervous to come back but I feel I wanted to come back and I hope I can do well but you never know."

Assistant coaches worked him through conditioning, timing and shooting drills for nearly an hour, testing his recovery.

At one point Forsberg looked like he was ready to play when he whirled around and snapped a puck off the crossbar and behind backup goalie Peter Budaj.

Forsberg said his foot is on the way to recovery this time.

"I'm definitely on the right path this time. I'm really happy. I've been working with my doctor back home in Sweden for the last seven months."

Ruslan Salei, who joined Colorado on Wednesday, welcomed Forsberg's return.

"To have him back, it's really a big plus for the league and the club," said Salei, obtained Tuesday from the Florida Panthers for fellow defenceman Karlis Skrastins and a third-round 2008 draft pick.

"I played a lot against him and I know what he can do. He's just an amazing player ... unbelievable skill and amazing character."

Forsberg arrived in Vancouver late Tuesday night after flying from Stockholm, Sweden to London and Montreal. The trip took 29 hours but couldn't keep him off the ice.

He also joined defenceman Adam Foote, a 16-year veteran who can use his six-foot-two, 226-pound frame to discourage opposing forwards from setting up shop in front of the net.

Foote and Forsberg won Stanley Cups with the Avalanche in 1996 and 2001.

They arrived just as Ryan Smyth (broken ankle), Joe Sakic (hernia) and leading scorer Peter Stastny (appendix) returned to the lineup.

"It's a positive emotional lift, getting Big Pete (Forsberg) back and getting (Salei) on the back end," said defenceman Scott Parker.

"I don't want to say powerhouse but we've got a pretty thick lineup now and it's going to be a fun run. It's just a good feeling to have the good players back.

"It's a little bit of a reunion," Parker said of uniting Forsberg and Foote. "To bring that back and to re-sparkle something that we used to have in the past, it's going to be interesting."

Foote hopped a plane as soon as he was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets for conditional first-and fourth-round draft picks and arrived during the first period of Colorado's 3-2 overtime win over the Calgary Flames.

"It was fun having Footer come on the bench halfway through the first period," Parker said. "I don't think half our boys knew he was on the bench but once he got out there it was good to see him again.

"He moved in there with us like he'd been there all year long."

Forsberg, who began his career in 1994 with the Quebec Nordiques, played nine seasons in Colorado and won the Hart MVP and scoring titles in 2003 and was a first-team all-star three times.

He holds franchise in playoff records with 97 assists and 154 points. He's second with 57 goals.

Canucks captain Markus Naslund said Forsberg, who is also from his home town of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden and was courted by Canucks GM Dave Nonis last summer, will be highly motivated.

"I'm sure he is and excited about playing hockey again and being back in Denver."

Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell, whose Minnesota Wild knocked the Avs out of the first round of the playoffs in 2003, said Colorado has taken dead aim on the rest of the conference with its upgrades.

"They're targeting us and they're targeting other teams," Mitchell said. "We're fortunate enough that, even through all the (Vancouver) injuries, we're still ahead of them in the standings."

Coach Alain Vigneault said when Forsberg's healthy, he's one of the best in the league but, "it's not what you have on paper, it's how you perform on that 200x85(-foot ice surface)."

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Forsberg hopes to play in Avs' next homestand