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Old 04-15-2007, 08:15 AM   #1235
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Foppa seems open to returning
By Mark Kiszla
Denver Post Staff Columnist
Article Last Updated:04/08/2007 12:41:10 AM MDT


Peter Forsberg, won't you please come home?

Forsberg broke Colorado's heart. Again.

He came back to town for the first time as a visiting player, and halted a remarkable late-season playoff drive by his former team, bumping the Avs from the playoffs for the first time since they moved to Denver in 1995.
So one impossible dream ended for the Avs, with a 4-2 loss to Forsberg and Nashville.

But let an even better hockey fantasy for Colorado fans begin.

Can you envision Forsberg wearing an Avs sweater again?

He can.

With that wry smile you certainly remember and the twinkle in his eyes that made "Foppa" so beloved in Colorado, Forsberg told me late Saturday night he is receptive to the idea of returning to the Avs next season.

"I have to decide if I'm going to keep on playing, first," said Forsberg, whose injury-plagued career was never more frustrating than this year, when his troublesome right foot sometimes made it too painful to even lace up his skates. But he emphasized giving it another go in the NHL has definitely not been ruled out.

If Forsberg can return to full health, he'd also like to mend the hearts that were broken when the Avalanche let him go as a free agent in 2005.

At age 33, with his contract again ready to expire, he looks at Denver as one place that could entice him to leave his homeland of Sweden and return to the world's No. 1 hockey league for a 12th season.

"It's one of the destinations, if I'm going to play in the NHL, that I would think about. Definitely," said Forsberg, when asked directly if he would consider coming back to Colorado.

On a night when winning is all that mattered to the Avs, the franchise paused in the opening period to salute Forsberg, a member of both teams that brought the Stanley Cup to Colorado.

During a break from action on the ice, Colorado management showed a video montage of Forsberg highlights, then generously allowed 17,462 fans in the arena to give him a standing ovation.

"I was really touched," Forsberg said. "All I can say is great words for this organization and this city."

Think maybe the Avs were trying to recruit Forsberg?

And "Foppa" can still work magic with a simple wave of his stick.

Needing nothing less than a victory against Nashville to keep their long ago left for dead playoff hopes alive, the Avs carried a 2-1 lead into the final period, only to watch Forsberg make that advantage go poof and disappear.
On what proved to be the game-winning goal by Predators teammate Paul Kariya, Forsberg made a sweet pass so beautiful it could have brought tears of nostalgia and regret to anyone in the house.

Were you watching, Pierre Lacroix?

Up in the owner's box, Stan Kroenke sat sipping a glass of red wine. For a billionaire who builds new sporting facilities and can afford to invest in pro franchises from St. Louis to jolly old England, how much could it hurt to give Forsberg one more contract?

Despite the emergence of young players such as goalie Peter Budaj and center Paul Stastny, not to mention a 14-1-2 record in a stretch of 17 games that almost got the Avs back in the playoffs, this team did not do enough for anyone to feel this team deserved a postseason berth.

"We fought hard, and tried to hang in there, but we fell short," said captain Joe Sakic, sure to be more frustrated when he learned hapless Edmonton beat Calgary, the team Colorado was chasing for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs.

The Avs can look in the newspaper this morning and see the 93 points next to their name in the standings. No team in league history has done so much and not qualified for the postseason.

But any way the Avs do the math, they're out, Calgary is in and the folks in Hockeytown can breathe easy, knowing their beloved Detroit Red Wings have dodged a date with Colorado in the opening round.

"It's great to be back," said Forsberg, genuinely sorry his return contributed to Colorado's demise. Denver still feels like home.

"Sometimes, you don't know what you have until you leave," Forsberg said. "We'll see what happens." If there is a hockey god, "Foppa" will be skating again next season. And it will be in Colorado, where he belongs.

Staff writer Mark Kiszla can be reached at 303-954-1053 or mkiszla@denverpost.com.
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