Avs hope for miracle with Forsberg, Foote 

In a perfect sports world, Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote would return to the Colorado Avalanche and help lead the way to another Stanley Cup.

But as much of a feel-good story as this week's acquisitions may be, nothing about Forsberg's decision to make a Colorado comeback, followed by the trade to bring back Foote, suggests we should expect any kind of storybook ending to the 2007-08 National Hockey League season.

So let's lower any unrealistic dreams, before the Swedish superstar even lands back in Denver with his defenseman buddy in tow.

Forsberg might be "only" 34, and he still might make a noticeable difference for the Avalanche. But only if he truly has recovered from the ankle and foot problems that have prevented him from playing anywhere this season.

Foote, at 36, remains one of the league's most respected blue-liners, still capable of tormenting opponents' top offensive threats. But he's not quite the same as he was at 24 and 29, when he played a major role on Colorado's two Stanley Cup winners.

There's nothing ceremonial about the Avs making these moves, but this isn't like when they obtained legendary defenseman Ray Bourque from Boston in 2000, with everyone in the sport pulling for him to win the Stanley Cup (which happened in 2001). Bourque certainly helped make the Avalanche better, but that team already was a perennial Cup contender.

This is more about a struggling Colorado club that needs all the help it can get, trying to piece together some momentum to get to the playoffs and then who knows?

You have to figure Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville was pushing for Forsberg and Foote. Quenneville was a Colorado assistant during that magical season of 1995-96, when the Quebec Nordiques moved west and the magnificent duo of Joe Sakic (120 points) and Forsberg (116) carried the Avs all the way to the championship. Foote also was an invaluable presence, especially when the Avalanche knocked off Detroit in the Western Conference finals.

That was Forsberg's first full NHL season, and he capped it in the Stanley Cup Finals with a hat trick in one period of Game 2 of the four-game sweep against the Florida Panthers. In those days, Forsberg's rare combination of speed, power and grace was mesmerizing. He'd step onto the ice, and soon you'd simply be watching him, no matter where the puck was. He always looked bigger than his 6-foot, 205-pound frame, but that size and strength were sufficient to help him maneuver through opponents, especially around the net.

Off the ice, he modestly preferred to let others do the talking. Sakic was the captain, and Patrick Roy owned the nets, so Forsberg was content to stay out of the media spotlight as much as possible.

When he says now that he's coming back because of all the great memories in Colorado, he's not just talking about hockey. During his long first run (1995-2004) with the Avalanche, he loved living in Denver and even attended church on Sundays when the schedule allowed it.

He probably won't be house-hunting for this season-ending run, but if he stays longer, don't be surprised. Many fans might have forgotten, but Forsberg missed out on the 2001 finish. That was the year when he underwent emergency surgery for a ruptured spleen during the second playoff round. So all he could do at the end was put on his No. 21 sweater with street clothes, walk onto the ice and hoist the famous trophy.

You know he'd love a shot at creating another final Cup memory to replace that one.

As for Foote, he's an instant role model for the defensemen, and obviously he'll be motivated by the reception he'll receive from the Colorado fans. Foote wasn't the only blue-line addition this week, as the Avs dealt Karlis Skrastins to Florida for Ruslan Salei (both are 33). Salei brings another aggressive presence, and he's capable of contributing some offense.

These changes will mean a new chemistry for the Avalanche, but nobody's complaining. Sakic is working his way back into form after missing a half-season (sports hernia surgery), and Paul Stastny and Ryan Smyth have returned from injuries.

As the roster moves took place, Colorado was reeling from a painful February, having lost six out of seven. That put the Avs four points behind eighth place and a playoff berth. But with Foote already in the lineup, they won Tuesday at Calgary and Wednesday at Vancouver, and starting Saturday night against Los Angeles, 10 of the final 17 games are at home. With so many more weapons, Quenneville has a chance to ... wait, let's not get too excited here.

Let's just say Colorado is a much better hockey team now than a week ago. You just know Forsberg and Sakic will wind up on the ice together again, whether on the same forward line or, perhaps at first, just on power plays with Foote behind them, of course.

Just seeing that reunion will be a pleasure for anyone who cares about hockey.

And if the Avs suddenly catch fire, who knows?

Ice shavings: Colorado College can wrap up the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season title this weekend against Minnesota State-Mankato, after that impressive sweep at Minnesota-Duluth. But Mankato is more than capable of prolonging the drama, and North Dakota isn't going away. If the Tigers slip at all against Mankato, it could come down to the regular-season finale here March 8 against Denver. ... Those back-to-back road shutouts (3-0 and 4-0) at Duluth marked the first time CC had ever done that in a road WCHA series, and the first shutout road sweep by the same goalie (Richard Bachman) in the Tigers' 70-year history. ... Latest NCAA projections at uscho.com for the West Regional have semifinal pairings of CC vs. Notre Dame and Denver vs. Clarkson, which would be delicious. But don't be surprised if Miami of Ohio enters the West picture. Tournament tickets ($85 and $70) for the three-game weekend of March 28-29 are available at 576-2626 or cctigers.com.


Sports Shot
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See the headline? Beijing is ordering nearby industries to cut production and pollution before the Olympics on Aug. 8-24.
On the air Kansas State at Kansas, still a great men's hoops rivalry, 7 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.


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