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Old 10-12-2006, 09:07 AM   #91
Bronx33
lets go partner
 
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Default Klee is feeling like he's home

Huh! i never knew klee had a place up in morrison.


CENTENNIAL - Ask an Indiana native to name his favorite sports movie and odds are he'll pick the basketball film Hoosiers.

Miracle on Ice would seem more appropriate for Ken Klee and John- Michael Liles, even though both were born in Indianapolis and are well aware of the hoops hysteria that exists in their home state.

They just happen to play hockey for a living as Avalanche defensemen.

"It's kind of funny that we've got that Indiana connection, and now he's my defense partner," Liles said.

Washington Capitals forward Donald Brashear is the only other active NHL player born in Indiana, but he was raised in Montreal.

In a way, Klee, 35, feels as if he has come back home after signing with the Avalanche in July as a free agent. He and his wife have had a house in Morrison since 1998, when he was playing for the Capitals, but until this year, it was empty during hockey season.

"We used to travel around the summer a lot and look at different places to live," Klee said. "Denver offered so much outdoor life with hiking, mountain biking, hunting, fishing. We just kind of took a chance. We knew we wanted to live on the water or in the mountains, and we decided the mountains were where we wanted to be."

Klee was a Capitals rookie in 1994-95 when veteran Dave Poulin gave him what he still regards as a practical piece of advice.

"He said, 'Buy a house where you want to live, not where you play.' That's something I'll never forget," Klee said. "Thankfully, we did it. We found a place where we wanted to live. No matter what happens with hockey, you always have a place to call home.

"Now we're thrilled to be able to stay at home and be down to one house. We have three kids, and it's nice to not have to move them all over the country and to Canada like we did the last couple of years. We made a lot of friends here over the years and it's real exciting for us to be home."

Liles, 25, was born and raised in Indiana, but Klee was a toddler when his family moved to Broomfield, where he learned to skate and play hockey.

The family moved back to Indianapolis when Klee was 6, then to Kansas City seven years later. Klee continued to play hockey and progressed enough to leave home at 17 to play Junior B hockey at legendary St. Michael's in Toronto alongside a teenage star named Eric Lindros.

From there, Klee earned a scholarship to Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Klee was a freshman when Rob Blake was a senior there, making it all the more interesting that he has supplanted Blake as Liles' defense partner.

When Blake left Colorado in July to sign with Los Angeles, Klee and his agent contacted Avalanche general manager Francois Giguere, and they eventually agreed on a one-year deal for $700,000.

"I was excited for a fresh start, and with Rob Blake leaving, that opened up a lot of minutes," said Klee, who spent his first nine seasons with Washington and most of two seasons with Toronto until a trade in March sent him to New Jersey.

Through three games with the Avalanche, Klee is averaging 22 minutes of ice time, second on the team to Brett Clark's 24:25.

"Kenny is a real experienced guy, a real good pro," coach Joel Quenne-ville said. "The fact that we use him a little bit on special teams is a compliment to what he can do. He's probably playing more than we initially anticipated."

That could change once Jordan Leopold is cleared to play after recovering from hernia surgery, but Klee is making the most of his opportunity.

"I just have to keep making good decisions and playing smart hockey and, hopefully, I'll keep getting rewarding with ice (time)," he said.

Klee's fellow Hoosier is happy, too.

"I had the privilege of playing with 'Blakie' for two years - a big, solid, dependable defenseman - and Kenny's been very good for me," Liles said. "Anybody that's played in the league this long has a lot of knowledge, and I try to pick his brain as much as I can."
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