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Atlantic: Favorites for 'Foppa'? Flyers aren't sure

by Chuck Gormley

Peter Forsberg is furiously trying to work himself and his troubled right foot into game shape.
As the Feb. 26 NHL trade deadline draws near, there remains a player who could make a greater impact on the Stanley Cup Playoffs than anyone rumored to be on the trading block.

Peter Forsberg, ranked second among active players with 166 career playoff points, is conducting his own version of a hurry-up offense in his native Ornskoldsvik, Sweden.

Forsberg, 34, is furiously trying to work himself and his troubled right foot into game shape so he can resume an NHL career that has been placed on hold since last spring.

How close is Forsberg to making a decision and who has the best chance of getting him? Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren said he talked with Forsberg’s agent, Don Baizley, Friday and was told Forsberg will need another week to come to a decision.

“I’m still not convinced he’s coming back to the NHL,” Holmgren said. “People seem to think he’s coming back to the Flyers. I’m certainly not convinced of that.”

Forsberg, 34, has been given medical clearance by his foot surgeon, Dr. Bertil Romanus, to resume his playing career, but that does not mean he’s 100 percent certain about how well his reconstructed right foot will perform in a lengthy playoff run.

But Forsberg’s uncertainty did not stop him from instructing Baizley to begin conversations with NHL teams two weeks ago. Last week, Baizley reportedly turned down offers by the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames. That narrowed the field of interested parties to the Flyers, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, and Chicago Blackhawks. But no one seems to know who holds the edge.

Chuck Gormley
Chuck Gormley reports on the Atlantic Division every week throughout the 2007-08 regular season.

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“If there’s a person that holds his cards closer to his vest than Don Baizley, I don't know who it is,” said Canucks General Manager Dave Nonis. “I think he’s very good at what he does. He never tips his hand as to which direction he is leaning, so I don't know. I think there are a lot of teams that would have a great deal of interest in a healthy Peter Forsberg. We're one of them, but again I haven't talked to a GM who isn't interested."

Flyers President Peter Luukko has said he thinks it will come down to the Flyers, Avs and Canucks.

Wednesday in Ottawa, Senators center Jason Spezza told reporters Forsberg’s return will come in a Flyers uniform.

“Hate to break it to you guys, but he’s going to Philly,” Spezza said. “I’d love to have him here, but I don't think it’s going to happen.”

Holmgren said he is OK with Forsberg taking his time with his decision, even if it comes less than 10 days before the trade deadline.

“Peter’s got two big decisions to make -- whether he’s healthy or not and where to go,” Holmgren said. “He knows how we feel about him. He can make up his own mind. He’s a big boy.”

In Forsberg’s two seasons in Philadelphia, the Flyers were 50-36-14 with him in the lineup and 10-23-5 without him. Flyers coach John Stevens said he has no concerns about Forsberg’s possible arrival disrupting the chemistry of a team that is fighting for the Atlantic Division lead.

“Peter is a smart enough a player to figure out that we have a common goal here and if he’s here we want him to be a part of it.”

Around the Atlantic -- The Penguins enter this week 6-2-2 since losing captain Sidney Crosby to a high ankle sprain. Evgeni Malkin has 8 goals and 12 assists in the 10 games and has been on fire the last five with four goals and 10 assists for 14 points. “They lose one guy and they find another guy who has been playing well for them,” Flyers goalie Marty Biron said. “That’s the tradeoff you want to have.” … The Rangers wouldn’t mind if they played all their games against the East. New York is 0-7-2 against the Western Conference but a combined 8-1-0 against Philadelphia and New Jersey. … Rangers goaltender Steve Valiquette has blanked the Flyers each of the last two times he faced them for the only two shutouts of his career. … Coaches do some funny things to break their team out of the doldrums. In Jersey, coach Brent Sutter reacted to a slump by moving his players to different locker stalls in the dressing room. "The locker room before the game was a lot livelier than it's been in a while,” Jamie Langrenbrunner said after the Devils’ 6-1 win over the Hurricanes. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur has played in 15 straight heading into back-to-back games against the Senators. Forward Sergei Brylin has played in 302 straight games, fourth on the Devils’ all-time list. … The Islanders entered this week in an 0-6-1 funk. One reason is Isles captain Bill Guerin went eight games with just one assist. He snapped that drought with his team-high 19th goal over the weekend. … The Flyers entered this week in the throes of their first two-game losing streak since mid-December. Center R.J. Umberger, a native of Pittsburgh, scored a pair against the Penguins Sunday and has been involved in 10 of the Flyers’ last 14 goals against the Pens.


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