-- At age 20, Matt Duchene
is 17 years younger than Peter Forsberg
, who was one of his childhood idols when the Swedish star was helping the Colorado Avalanche
win two Stanley Cups.
After skating on a line with Forsberg and David Jones
during Tuesday's practice at the South Suburban Family Sports Center, Duchene sounded as though Forsberg had never been away.
"If I can look that good at that age after all those surgeries and everything, I'd be counting my blessings," Duchene said.
Forsberg, who is attempting a return to the NHL nearly three years after last playing with the Avalanche in the 2008 playoffs, skated for the fourth consecutive day after arriving in Denver on Friday night and attracted another sizeable media horde.
"It's pretty funny to watch this whole circus here, (reporters) going back and forth from one side of the room to the other," said Duchene, whose locker stall is across the room from Forsberg's.
Forsberg, who breathed heavily and sweated profusely after the hour-long workout, said it was too early to know if this latest comeback attempt might prove successful.
"It's hard practices, so I'm just going to keep on going," he said. "It's been a couple of days and I'm starting to feel better. I think I would need a couple more practices at least. I'm not trying to think anything yet. I'm just going to keep on skating and keep on working and see where I'm at. I'm not going to say positive or not. I'm not thinking about it yet. It's too early to say."
Forsberg was able to skate on a regular line because Milan Hejduk
was given the day off. He practiced at left wing with Duchene in the middle and Jones on the right.
"He's a great player," Forsberg said of Duchene. "I wish I had his legs; then there would be no problem being out there. I'm really impressed with what I've seen so far of him."
Duchene was thrilled to skate with Forsberg.
"We got the chance to play together and we were talking out there," he said. "I think we play a real similar style of play below the goal line. We were talking about potentially having some great chemistry there. But there's no awe factor at all. Obviously if I was the 12-year-old Matt I'd be like that, but I'm 20 now and I've played quite a few games in the League as a young kid."
Duchene said Forsberg has a smoother skating stride than he anticipated after watching him play on TV.
"Seeing him in person, he's really smooth," Duchene said. "He's a little bit different than I thought. I thought he was real explosive, and he is, but he's more smooth. He almost doesn't pick his feet up in the (offensive) zone. It's pretty amazing to watch."
Jones was an Avalanche rookie in 2007-08 when Forsberg joined the team for the second half of the season.
"He's definitely a lot better than I thought he'd be after taking so much time off," Jones said. "I got a chance to play with him a little bit three years ago when he came back, so it's nice to be out there with him again. He's the type of guy that will want to be at his best when he comes back, which means better than pretty much everyone else in the League."
Forsberg had 1 goal and 13 assists in nine regular-season games after rejoining the Avalanche in February 2008, and he added 1 goal and 4 assists in seven playoff games but was hampered by groin injuries and a troublesome right foot.
"From what I remember, his foot was really bothering him," Jones said. "He was rehabbing that foot a lot. I think he's kind of got that fixed. It seems like it's not really bothering him from talking to him. He looks a little quicker out there, so he's not quite maybe as sore.
"But this is just practice. It'll be up to him to see how it is when he starts battling guys and it is a little more physical. But he looks good and we're hoping that he eventually joins us at some point."
Forsberg did take part in Sunday's nearly 90-minute practice that involved plenty of battling for pucks in the corners.
"It was a hard practice Sunday and I jumped right into it," he said. "Even the boys here thought it was hard. It was a little easier today. I got to catch my breath between the drills. Like I said, it was going to be between days and (weeks) to see how long it's going to take. I just have to keep on working and do my best every practice."
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco didn't give much of a progress report.
"He's the only one who can tell you how he feels physically, where he's at from that standpoint," Sacco said. "He's skating well. He looked good out there today."
Forsberg will be on his own after Wednesday's morning skate. The Avalanche play the Coyotes at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night and won't practice again until Monday following the NHL All-Star break. NHL Players Association bylaws prohibit team activities during the break.
"It's like being at home by yourself," said Forsberg, who will remain in the Denver area. "The guys are gone and they're not allowed to skate with me, so I get to skate by myself. I'll be trying to find ice somewhere. I'm not going to go skiing or anything like that. It's been a couple of hard practices, so maybe it'll be good for me to rest a couple of days."