DENVER - Peter Forsberg skated off the ice Saturday, sweat dripping from the goatee on his chin.
The Colorado Avalanche forward quickly came to a realization - he wasn't ready for an NHL game. Forsberg won't play Saturday night against the Los Angeles Kings, saying he needs to practice more with his teammates - and get used to skating again at altitude - before taking the ice.
"It's not the beer league," said Forsberg, who signed a one-year prorated deal with Colorado last Monday. "It's the toughest league you could play in."
Forsberg is taking a cautious approach to his return. He's not sure when he'll be ready to skate for the Avalanche. He said he could make his Colorado debut Tuesday night against Vancouver. However, the team has only one practice scheduled before the Canucks game and Forsberg isn't sure that gives him enough time.
"How long it's going to take, we don't know yet," Forsberg said. "We don't want to rush anything. I've had a few injuries before, we want to make sure I don't come back and get one right away."
His right foot, though, is feeling better. The foot has been bothering him for the past few seasons, but it's finally at a point where it's not causing him constant discomfort. That's why he agreed to a return.
"I've been skating back home for a couple of weeks and it was feeling better and better," said Forsberg, whose arrival in town was delayed until Friday night as he sorted out the paperwork for his visa. "It was always my goal to come back and play in the NHL. I think I have more to give."
Forsberg isn't sure how much longer he'll play in the NHL. But how he performs with Colorado down the stretch will be a "little test" for him.
"I don't see myself playing until I'm 45," Forsberg said. "But I'd like to play as long as I could help the team in a good way when I'm on the ice, and play at the level I want to be playing at. I hope I have a couple more years left in me."
Avalanche general manager Francois Giguere thinks he does. That's why he enticed him back to Colorado.
"There were a lot of teams that would've liked to have Peter, and Peter chose to come back to us," Giguere said.
Part of that is because Denver remains Forsberg's home away from Sweden. He still owns a downtown condo - although he can't use it right now since Nuggets forward Nene is renting it out.
"I'm not going to throw him out," Forsberg said with a grin. "If he was 5-foot-6, I might. He's a little bigger than that. I know the area, it won't be hard to rent a place somewhere."
Forsberg established quite a legacy during his first stint in Colorado. He helped the team win two Stanley Cup titles, won the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP in 2003 and ranks fourth on the franchise's all-time scoring list with 741 points.
"The fans know what Peter is," Giguere said. "His legacy is assured."
That's why he's not worried about tarnishing his image should he be only a fraction of his former self this time around.
"I think the people in Denver know I do everything I can to make the team win," Forsberg said. "It's going to be the same this time around. Maybe I'm not that good, I don't know. We'll see when I get on the ice."