Behind a three-game winning streak, the Colorado Avalanche have moved into a three-way tie for the Western Conference's final two playoff spots. Now, after losing two top scoring threats to injury their last time out, the Avalanche will have a familiar face back in their lineup to help keep the winning streak intact.
Peter Forsberg will suit up for Colorado for the first time in four years on Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks, who are also tied for one of the West's final playoff spots.
The 34-year-old Forsberg, who played for the Colorado franchise for 10 years before the league's lockout in 2004-05, agreed to a $5 million, one-year deal on Feb. 25 after sitting out the first five months of the season with a right foot injury. Forsberg was named the 2003 NHL MVP, and led the Avs to Stanley Cup championships in 1996 and 2001.
He declared himself ready to go after the Tuesday morning skate-around.
In Saturday's 5-2 win over Los Angeles, the Avalanche (34-26-6) lost forwards Ryan Smyth and Marek Svatos for an indefinite amount of time.
Smyth, who had scored two goals in a two-minute span early in the second period, was injured when Kings defenseman Jack Johnson checked him into the glass late in the second period. The Colorado forward lay motionless on the ice for several minutes, but was walking before he was sent to a hospital for a CT scan. He was released from the hospital Saturday night.
Svatos, who has a goal and five assists during a season-high six-game point streak, hurt his right knee when he collided awkwardly with the boards.
Smyth and Svatos have scored a combined 40 goals this season, and both players will undergo further examination with medical staff over the next few days.
"It would be tough if the guys were out for any amount of time," said Joe Sakic, who scored his ninth goal of the season Saturday. "But we've dealt with injuries all year. You have to play through it and persevere."
Sakic has two goals and an assist in four games after missing 38 with a sports hernia.
Colorado is tied with Vancouver (32-23-10) and Nashville for the final two playoff spots in the West, but the Avs and Canucks are also just five points behind first-place Minnesota in the Northwest Division.
Since being four points back of the final playoff spot on Feb. 25, Colorado has won its last three following a 1-5-1 stretch. The Avs have not won four consecutive games since Oct. 23-Nov. 1.
Colorado has won three straight over the Canucks, including last Wednesday's 3-2 shootout victory, after losing its first two games of the season against them.
Avs goaltender Jose Theodore is 2-0-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average versus the Canucks this season, with all of those starts coming on the road. Theodore, who is just 2-5-0 with a 3.18 GAA at home since Jan. 22, made 23 saves on Saturday to win his third straight start.
Vancouver, meanwhile, has lost three straight following a season-high four-game winning streak.
The Canucks lost to Chicago 4-1 on Sunday, and have just five goals during their skid. Vancouver was held to a season-low 10 shots against the Blackhawks, its fewest shots since managing a franchise-low eight in a 2-1 loss to New Jersey on Dec. 18, 1996.
"Maybe it's best that we just forget about his one," goaltender Roberto Luongo said.
Luongo blocked 22 shots in his 14th straight start before being replaced by Curtis Sanford at 9:49 of the third period. Luongo had 24 saves in last week's lost to the Avs, and is 2-2-1 with a 2.94 GAA against them this season.
Daniel Sedin leads Vancouver with 26 goals, but has not scored in his last five games. He has two goals and four assists against Colorado this season.