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Blue Jackets Spoil Forsberg's Return

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Avalanche fans finally got what they were waiting for on Friday night, as Peter Forsberg returned to the National Hockey League during Colorado’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Unfortunately, Foppa’s return wasn’t enough to propel the Avs to victory. Instead, the club’s losing streak was extended to six games following a 3-1 loss to the Blue Jackets.

When the first puck was dropped, Forsberg, wearing his familiar No. 21 sweater, was lined up at left wing opposite Milan Hejduk on a line centered by Matt Duchene. For the record, Forsberg’s first shift of the season lasted 55 seconds.

Forsberg saw 17:38 of ice time and recorded one shot on goal and two hits during his return to the NHL
After nearly three years away from the NHL, Forsberg, in a self-depreciating manner, often stated during different stages of his comeback attempt that he wasn’t sure if he “would be any good” upon returning.

The early returns were positive in that department. Although he didn’t get onto the scoresheet against Columbus, one of the most popular players in Avalanche history appeared as if he still knew a thing or two about playing the game at a high level.

In 17:38 of ice time, Forsberg recorded one shot on goal, two hits and also made some crafty passes, including when he set up Duchene from behind the net with 12:30 remaining in the third period. Duchene’s attempt from the doorstep was turned away by Columbus netminder Mathieu Garon, who finished the game with 31 saves.

Athletes are often their worst critics, and Forsberg understandably has high expectations for his own play.

“I could have played better, but hopefully it gets better. I’m going to take it one game at a time,” said Forsberg. “Overall our team doesn’t have too much confidence right now. For my side, I just have to keep on working. It was my first game in a long time, and I just need to keep on working. Hopefully it will get better and better.”

Forsberg, who noted that he expects to play Saturday against Nashville,  also proved that he can clearly still be physical, win battles along the boards and protect the puck, some of the aspects that have always been stronger parts of his game.

The Avalanche didn’t see much power-play time against Columbus, receiving only one man advantage after R.J. Umberger was whistled for delay of game at the 11:39 mark of the second period. As expected, Forsberg was utilized at that point in the game.

The Avalanche’s first power-play unit included Forsberg, Duchene and David Jones at the forward slots and John-Michael Liles and Kevin Shattenkirk on the back end.

With extra room to operate, Forsberg’s vision and passing skills were on full display. Early in the power play he threaded a cross-ice pass to Liles, who fluttered a one-time attempt from the right faceoff circle and seemed pretty displeased with himself afterward, knowing that he had been set up nicely.

Forsberg’s new head coach, Joe Sacco, relayed some positive comments about his play.

“I thought that he played better than I expected him too. He was arguably our best player,” said Sacco. “I thought he was really good tonight.”

Forsberg last played in the NHL during the tail end of the 2007-08 season, when he signed with the Avalanche on Feb. 25, 2008 and posted 14 points (1g/13a) in nine regular season games with the club. He also appeared in seven playoff contests that season, totaling five points (1g/4a).

The Ornskoldsvik, Sweden native began his comeback attempt in earnest on Jan. 22, when he skated with Ryan O’Reilly prior to Colorado’s afternoon tilt against the Boston Bruins. The comeback became official on Super Bowl Sunday, when he proclaimed following the team’s practice that he indeed wanted to play for the Avalanche. Shortly after, the club announced that they had signed the forward to a deal for the remainder of the 2010-11 season.

Roster Moves
On Thursday, the Avalanche recalled goaltender John Grahame and defenseman Jonas Holos from the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League in moves that were necessitated by differing circumstances.

Grahame was recalled because netminder Craig Anderson had to fly back to Denver following Wednesday’s game for personal reasons and served as Peter Budaj’s backup tonight. Holos was brought up to fill in on the blue line due to a couple injuries at that position.

Captain Adam Foote missed his second consecutive game with a leg injury, while fellow blueliner Kyle Cumiskey sustained a head injury during Wednesday’s contest and is out indefinitely. With the Avs down to five healthy defensemen, Holos jumped right into the lineup and posted a +1 plus/minus rating and three hits in 16:37 of ice time.

Also of note, second-year center Ryan O’Reilly was a healthy scratch tonight.
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