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Forsberg his own worst critic in comeback bid

by John Manasso
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Peter Forsberg might be his own worst critic.

Having started the NHL season at Game No. 55, the 37-year-old former Hart Trophy winner hit the ground running this weekend with back-to-back games in Columbus and Nashville on Friday and Saturday -- his first NHL action since 2008 because of chronic foot problems.

He finished minus-2 in each game and without a point to show for his efforts, as the Colorado Avalanche, with just one win in their last 10, officially tied Ottawa as the coldest team in the League in that span.

Under such circumstances, one might think that Forsberg might cut  himself some slack. Not so after Colorado's 5-3 loss to the Predators on Saturday, which followed a 3-1 defeat at Columbus 24 hours earlier.

"A little tough today," Forsberg said after the game. "I don't think I played a good game today. As a team, we got pushed around our own zone the first two periods. They were kind of all over us."

Forsberg also took two minor penalties. He showed his strength is still present, planting Sergei Kostitsyn on the ice at 13:09 of the second, which earned him an interference call. Forsberg quibbled with that one, but not the hooking call he got at 19:16 of the same period.

"First one, I think, he was still carrying the puck when I hit him, he just didn't see me," Forsberg said. "The second one, we lost the faceoff. I hooked him."

Before the game, Avs coach Joe Sacco said he thought that Forsberg did a good job of taking short  shift in the loss at Columbus and that doing so would keep him fresh. The Avs tried the same on Saturday, but to no avail. Forsberg played 17:32 one night after playing 17:38.

"Peter worked hard," Sacco said. "I thought he ran out of gas a little bit towards the end of the game. That's tough, back-to-back games, first time back with a team, first time in the NHL again. It's not easy, but certainly I thought the effort was there. We tried to manage his shifts appropriately to make sure he wasn't getting caught out there too long.

"Definitely towards the end of the game, you could see he was getting a little bit tired."

For the second night in a row, Forsberg started the game centering Matt Duchene on the left wing and Milan Hejduk on the right. However, midway through the game, Sacco started tinkering, putting Paul Stastny in place of Duchene.

Duchene, 20, who was a finalist for the Calder Trophy last season and scored his 21st goal on Saturday, said playing with Forsberg is a work in progress for him right now.

"He and I play a real similar style of game, so sometimes we run into each other out there," he said. "And, I mean, I think if we start out at the beginning of the year together, it could be something real special, but right now to play every shift together might be a little tough because we don't – I don't have time to adapt my game at this point. I've got to play my game and our games our so similar. I feel like I'm going to run into him if I go where I want to go so, I mean, not being together right now might be the best thing.

"Having the odd shift here and there and getting more chemistry will be good and he's a good guy to play with. Still, we did have a lot of chances when we were playing together. We just got to figure it out."

Duchene said Forsberg still draws plenty of attention from other teams.

"Obviously, he's going to be rusty because he hasn't played in so long and he's playing with new guys and everyone's learning what he's going to do out there," Duchene said. "He draws a lot of attention from defenders, which is a good thing. It'll open room for other guys. It's just going to keep getting better, but, like I said earlier, we just got to better quick because we're going to run out of time quick if we don't."

Forsberg seemed to tap into a similar sentiment. A despondent atmosphere hung over the Avs' locker room after Saturday's loss, in which they surrendered the winning goal with 2:30 left in regulation as a result of a defensive zone turnover. He said it would have been easier for him to swallow his performance if Colorado had won.

"It's tough, I don't think you can analyze the game that good when you're losing," he said. "We'll go home to Denver and see how it goes."

Forsberg has an admirer in one of his former coaches, Nashville's Barry Trotz.

"I'll tell you what, Peter Forsberg is still dynamite," Trotz said. "He's still hard to handle. It's amazing. You don't play and you're that hard to handle in the best League in the world. So I got of a lot of admiration for Peter Forsberg. He was one of those rare, rare athletes that you don't see too often."

Perhaps it was easier for Trotz to offer that appreciation in victory. For himself, Forsberg seemed to touch that same note of urgency that Duchene sounded.

"The bounces aren't going our way," Forsberg said, "but I think we have to be a little better, too, in the games."

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