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Veteran Joe Sakic has his Colorado Avalanche breathing down Calgary's neck

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Veteran Joe Sakic has his Colorado Avalanche breathing down Calgary's neck

The Canadian Press
By:

"Who would have thought that we'd become a Red Wing fan for a night? But that's what's happening," Sakic said with a laugh.

Sakic and his Colorado Avalanche squad have decided to make a race of it for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference thanks to an improbable 8-0-1 run.

"We still have work to do but we feel good about ourselves right now," Sakic said Tuesday in an interview with The Canadian Press before boarding a flight from Denver to Edmonton.

The Flames went into their game Tuesday night with a four-point lead over Colorado, the Avalanche getting set for back-to-back dates in Edmonton with the winless-in-11 Oilers on Wednesday and Friday.

"We still have to win a lot of hockey games," cautioned Sakic. "Calgary has a good hockey club there. For us, we can't just sit there and hope that they lose. We have to make sure we take care of our business."

Taking care of business is what Colorado has done in March. They began the month 12 points behind Calgary and very few people outside their dressing room believing they had any chance of reviving their season.

"I just think there was a point when we started to play loose, there was no pressure, and we started winning," said Sakic. "Now we're on a roll. It's a great feeling right now that we put ourselves back into this thing and gave ourselves some hope.

"The confidence is there, we believe in one another, we're really starting to gel."

Leading the way, of course, as he's done right from the beginning of his 18 NHL seasons with the Quebec/Colorado franchise, is Sakic. The 37-year-old native of Burnaby, B.C., has 86 points (30-56) in 72 games, soon to become only the fifth player in NHL history to record at least 90 points in a season when 37 or older, joining Gordie Howe, Johnny Bucyk, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky on that short list.

"Obviously you're proud that you can still do the things that you love to do and that's play hockey," Sakic said.

And it won't be his last. He raised eyebrows last summer when he signed only a one-year deal (worth a healthy US$5.75 million). But he'll be back next season.

"We're going to do another year," confirmed Sakic. "The only reason I did a one-year deal is that as this stage I prefer that. It's not about whether I'm going to leave, it's whether I'm going to keep playing.

"We know I'm going to play next year so we'll do another year here shortly."

In the meantime, his focus is on capping off a super comeback to a season seemingly going nowhere. At stake is avoiding the franchise's first missed playoffs since moving from Quebec to Denver in 1995.

"The games that earlier in the year we would find ways to lose, now we just have that belief that we're going to win," said Sakic. "Guys are really feeling good about one another and are very confident. It's a funny thing when you put a win streak together what it makes your team feel like."

And since No. 8 Edmonton went to the Cup final last spring. . .

"If we can get ourselves in, I'll gladly answer those questions at that point," said Sakic, cutting off the question.

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Veteran Joe Sakic has his Colorado Avalanche breathing down Calgary's neck