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Forsberg to give NHL another shot, signs with Avs

by Rick Sadowski
CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Peter Forsberg is back with the Colorado Avalanche.

After practicing with the team Sunday morning at the South Suburban Family Sports Center, the 37-year-old forward said he is ready to resume his NHL career, and the Avalanche confirmed he signed a contract and traveled with the team to Phoenix, where Colorado opens a four-game road trip on Monday.

The deal is pro-rated for $1 million, quite a bargain for a former Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner.

Forsberg, who last played in the NHL with the Avalanche in 2008, skated with the team or on his own every day after arriving from his native Sweden on Jan. 21. He seemed frustrated with his troublesome right foot and ankle as recently as Wednesday, but on Sunday said he noticed a gradual and substantial improvement.

"It's been feeling better and better," said Forsberg, who helped the Avalanche win Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001, and has remained a beloved figure among Colorado hockey fans. "The first couple of practices were tough. Guys were flying around you and I felt like I was 47 instead of 37. It might be the case when I get out playing, I don't know, but it has been feeling better and better and I came here to try and I want to play hockey. I love playing hockey. I'm not sure I’m going to be good. We’ll see when I get going.

"I'm 37 and those guys are 20, 25 and flying around me. Of course you’re going to be down because guys are fast and flying around you. I was a little down, thinking these guys are good, but the more I practice and the more I get to skate and the more I get to the tempo, it feels like maybe I can do it."

Forsberg said he decided before Sunday's practice to continue with his comeback and to speak with GM Greg Sherman about a contract if the session went well.

"Peter believes he can compete at the NHL level based on how his workouts went," Sherman said. "He will provide additional leadership to our club and he will have an impact with this young team."

Forsberg isn't expected to play Monday and he isn't sure when he'll be ready to suit up for a game. The Avalanche also will play Minnesota, Columbus and Nashville on the trip before returning home to meet Calgary on Feb. 14 at the Pepsi Center.

"I don't know how long before I can start playing," he said. "There are a few issues that have to be straightened out first. I'd like to play, but I'm not sure how it's going to go. I'm here, I came here to try and it's going pretty good. I'd like to start playing and see if I'm good enough."

Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said Forsberg's presence would provide a much-needed spark for a team that has lost five of its past six games and fallen into 12th place in the Western Conference with 30 regular-season games remaining.

"Definitely," Sacco said. "When he's available to us it will be a big boost for us emotionally and a big boost in our lineup. He has a strong history in our organization, but we're not doing it just for that reason. We're doing it because we really believe that he can help us here down the stretch in the last 30 games. We all know how tight the conference is and the importance of these games.

"Over the last couple of days having the opportunity to see him practice and see him get more comfortable out there and see the improvement he made each day, I was excited to hear his choice."

Sacco said it was too early to tell where and how he would use Forsberg, but he likely will skate at left wing. The Avalanche's top three centers are Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly. O'Reilly, who had missed seven games because of a shoulder injury, practiced Sunday and is expected to play against the Coyotes.

"When the time comes for me to make those decisions, when I know he's going to be available to us, I'll make those decisions," Sacco said of Forsberg's role with the team. "My intention right now is to start him at wing. We know the type of player that he is and I know the situations he has to be in in order for our team to be successful."

Forsberg said he was relieved to have finally arrived at a decision after several stress-filled days wondering if he could actually play again.

"It's up and down in this game," he said. "The last couple of days have been horrible, actually. Going back and forth, not knowing, and it's going to be nerve-wracking before the first game. I'm not sure how it's going to go, if I'm going to be good or not, but I'd like to give it a shot."

Forsberg ranks fourth in Quebec/Colorado franchise history with 755 points (217 goals, 538 assists) in 589 regular-season games. He is second in franchise history in playoff scoring with 159 points (58 goals, 101 assists) in 140 games.

Overall, Forsberg has 249 goals and 636 assists in 706 regular-season games that included stints with Philadelphia and Nashville. He has 64 goals and 107 assists in 151 career playoff games.
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