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Blake not expecting a warm homecoming

by Rick Sadowski
DENVER -- Rob Blake expects the boo birds to be out in full force tonight when his San Jose Sharks face the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
The Sharks captain was a popular member of the Avalanche's 2001 Stanley Cup championship team, but fans are likely to give him a difficult time each time he touches the puck because of a couple of hits against Colorado players.
Peter Mueller hasn't been close to returning since suffering a concussion following a Blake hit in an April 4 regular-season game and T.J. Galiardi hit the deck and had his helmet fly off on an open-ice check in overtime of Game 2 of this series.
"You expect these fans to be as intense as always," Blake said after Sunday morning's pregame skate. "They always have been very proud of their team and they'll be 100 percent behind them. This is playoffs. I was on (the Avalanche) side and I saw what it was like when we went through those playoffs and now I'm on a different team. I've been through it before in L.A. and San Jose when I got traded here.

"I've been through it as a visiting player. It's not the 2001 Stanley Cup team. I'm not playing on that team right now. They cheer for their team. I was part of it, so I understand. They're very loyal fans, and they should be."
Blake, who spent parts of five seasons with the Avalanche, said he makes it a point to look at the 2001 championship banner that hangs from the arena rafters each time he visits.
"Sure, I looked at it today," he said. "I look at it every day I come in here. That's special. You win the Stanley Cup, it stays with you forever. For me, it's an accomplishment. We did something special with that team here. I'll remember that forever, that's for sure."
Blake said the Sharks need to play with more passion from the opening faceoff tonight after needing a last-minute goal in regulation on Friday before pulling out a 6-5 overtime win.
"We were 30 seconds away from being down 2-0 (in the series), so we're not comfortable in here," he said. "We know what we have to do. We have to increase our intensity. As the playoffs go, as the series goes, we'll have to take it up a notch."

STOA IN FOR AVS: Rookie Ryan Stoa will become the 12th Avalanche player tonight to make his playoff debut in this series, replacing injured right wing Kevin Porter on the third line with left wing Darcy Tucker and center Ryan O'Reilly.
Porter suffered what the Avalanche are calling an upper-body injury in the second period Friday in Game 3.
Stoa, who turned 23 last week, had two goals and one assist in 12 games with the Avalanche this season. He scored a goal in each of the final two regular-season games.
A 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, Stoa was the Avalanche's second-round pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He had 23 goals and 17 assists in 54 games with the Lake Erie Monsters in the American Hockey League this season, his first as a pro.
"I'm definitely excited," Stoa, a former University of Minnesota star, said after Sunday's morning skate. "I've played in World Junior stuff and NCAA stuff. This is obviously a few steps above that.
"It's a young team, but we have a bunch of guys who aren't playing like rookies. Once you get in the moment, I think your skills and all that stuff takes over. That's what I'm going to rely on."
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco chose Stoa over two other forwards who have been healthy scratches in the series, Chris Durno and Marek Svatos.
"He's a big body," Sacco said. "He has the ability to go to the net hard and create some space, not only for himself but for his teammates. He's got the ability to make some plays.
"I like what he did at the end of the year for us. The biggest thing I like is his size right now. He brings some size to match up against San Jose and some of their bigger players."

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