|Foote and Forsberg help Avalanche return to playoffs after year's absence|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 07 April 2008 13:10|
The Avalanche returned to the postseason party after a year's absence and will face division rival Minnesota beginning Wednesday night.
Avalanche president Pierre Lacroix, who won two Stanley Cups in his 11-year stint as general manager, said Monday he was thrilled his successor, Francois Giguere, was able to engineer the returns of Forsberg and Foote.
The fan favorites bolted Denver during the cost-cutting aftermath of the NHL lockout that killed the 2004-05 season, and each of them returned this year, helping the Avs reach the playoffs with a strong stretch run.
``It's exciting,'' Lacroix said. ``And I said it back then when we were in the new hockey world after the lockout, when the new rules came, we were under different standards. And we said it all along back then, the only reason that Foote or Forsberg ... had to leave because of business reasons, period.
``Our relationship was wonderful. They said it. It was just a sad situation that we were forced into, and I think this is the confirmation today that these guys are back. I talked with both of them yesterday and they're so comfortable, so happy. It's a confirmation that their legacy is here in Colorado.''
One which they would dearly love to augment.
The Avalanche have their troubles with the power play and lack of production from high-priced players, but they're also hot. They went 5-0-1 in their last six games, including a 4-3 shootout win over the Wild on Sunday.
``It's good to know we can beat those guys,'' bruiser Ian Laperriere said. ``You don't know what can happen at the end. It's better to be sixth instead of seventh.''
Or ninth, as the Avs were last season, when they failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1993-94, when they were still the Quebec Nordiques, despite a 15-2-2 record in their final 19 games.
This time, their surge was sufficient.
``I think the games we had to have down the stretch we won, and we're feeling good about ourselves,'' captain Joe Sakic said. ``We know we have to bring it to another level in the playoffs.''
That's why he's glad Foote and Forsberg are back.
``You need experience and you can only get experience by playing,'' Sakic said. ``Both those guys are going to help out. At the deadline we got Ruslan (Salei), and he played in the finals, as well. We have a lot of experience in here and everyone needs to pick it up.''
One possible negative for the Avalanche is the back-to-back games they'll have to play when the series returns to Denver for Games 3 and 4 next week at the Pepsi Center. No recovery time between games could adversely affect Forsberg, who's been bothered by balky legs and a strained groin.
Forsberg, who rejoined the team two months ago but also sat out several games, said he's feeling better, although he recognizes the physicality of the playoffs ``will be 10 times greater.''
``It's getting better. I think I've played nine games, and it's getting better and better. I wish I would have played 40 games, but that's just the way it is,'' Forsberg said. ``On the other hand, I should be pretty rested coming into the playoffs.''
Coach Joel Quenneville said Forsberg makes the Avalanche much more equipped to handle the rigors of playoff hockey.
``I think he upgrades our overall skill level, helps our power play, direct plays, patience with the puck, relieving pressure as good as anyone in the game,'' Quenneville said. ``The improvement in overall skill and our team ability to score is enhanced. He's one of those players that can really influence the outcome of games. We've noticed that when he's been in.''
Neither Forsberg nor Foote practiced Monday.
``I rested. It was a tough game Sunday,'' Forsberg said. ``I will practice tomorrow and should be ready to go Wednesday. I don't mind taking days off. It doesn't hurt me. It will be a physical series. So every day you can take a day off is going to be to your advantage.''