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Forsberg's work ethic, desire as strong as ever

by Jerry Brown
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Adam Foote has been Peter Forsberg's teammate on and off for the last 15 years but even he freely admits he doesn't know how much his old friend has left in the tank -- at 37 years old and four years removed from his last full NHL season -- just based on watching him in a few practices.

"I don't know where he's going to be after that long break. But even if he's not going to be at that ultimate level, a Forsberg at any level is good for your hockey team," Foote said.

"Especially a young team like ours, that is struggling and been through a lot of injuries. We're going through a lull, and what better way to get out of it than add a Peter Forsberg?

"He'll help us on the ice. He'll help us in the dressing room. We need to fight and there is no one more competitive in this game. Why else would he still be here trying? If he still wants it ... what's anyone else's excuse?"

Forsberg could be back on the ice within days, as soon as he gets his visas in order and proves to Colorado coach Joe Sacco that he's ready for the stretch run. The Avalanche have lost five of their last seven entering Monday night's game with the Phoenix Coyotes, and have slipped to 12th place in the Western Conference, although just four points behind eighth-place Los Angeles and seven behind fourth place Nashville. Colorado has lost winger Tomas Fleischmann (blood clots in his lungs) for the season and could use another scoring threat up front.

Forsberg's nine-game comeback bid with Colorado in 2007-08 produced 13 assists and 14 points, but he was unable to stay healthy and a troublesome right foot and ankle has kept him out of the League since. His last full season with the Avalanche was 2002-03, when he racked up 106 points and paved the way for Milan Hejduk's 50-goal season with 77 assists.

Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris was Forsberg's teammate in Colorado that season.

"Pete may not be the dynamic player he was, but he's still a player who can change a game," he said. "His leadership in the room is great and he's got one of those attitudes that young guys really feed off of. He's a happy-go-lucky guy who's going to show the kids the right things.
"As good as he is, he works harder than anyone and that really rubs off on people. He's so competitive and wants to win so bad ... if he can stay healthy, it might not be a one-year thing. You have to love the game to keep trying this long."

Colorado defenseman John-Michael Liles will play in his 500th NHL game tonight and can't wait for the chance to play a game with Forsberg again.

"A guy like that, regardless of age or layoff, he has that skill level and he's still got that fire and passion," Liles said. "A lot of people, having been off that amount of time, would probably say 'I've made enough money, I've won two Cups, been MVP, whatever.' But to still have that fire, enough to keep trying, is amazing."

So far, Liles has been impressed.

"I don't know where he's going to be after that long break. But even if he's not going to be at that ultimate level, a Forsberg at any level is good for your hockey team." -- Adam Foote

"From what I see, he's still got the same hands and the same feel for the game and the ability to slow it down to his pace and make everyone around him better," he said. "Ultimately, that's what he brings to the table. He's also been there and done a lot and with a young team here that means a lot."

Colorado center Paul Stastny said news of Forsberg's possible return caught him off guard "because it had been so long."

"But after a few practices and the way he looked, it would have been a surprise had he not come back because he was looking that good," he said. "He owed himself to give it another shot. He's missed so many games and to try again, you don't ever want to let it go by."

Six months shy of his 40th birthday, Foote knows how precious every game can be -- especially the last one.

"Obviously, he wasn't happy with the way he left the game, it wasn't on his terms," Foote said. "And for someone who has accomplished what he has in the NHL, internationally, financially ... to come back and put in the work and try again ... that has to motivate a room."
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