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Old 02-06-2007, 03:16 PM   #721
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Default Liles, May 'really close'

CENTENNIAL - The Avalanche might soon get the boost it needs as it tries to make a playoff run.

Defenseman John-Michael Liles, who has missed the past 11 games, and forward Brad May, who was injured during the preseason, could return to the lineup as soon as tonight's game against the Florida Panthers at the Pepsi Center (7, Altitude).

Liles broke his left foot Jan. 6 against Minnesota; May underwent reconstructive surgery on a right shoulder Sept. 28 after being injured during an exhibition game.

Both practiced Monday and a final decision will be made this morning whether they will play against the Panthers.

"They are both really close," coach Joel Quenneville said. "There is a chance they could play (tonight). We'll visit with that (this) morning."

Quenneville believes the players' return might have a positive impact on their teammates.

"May hasn't played all year, so it will certainly be exciting for him and our team to see him back playing," Quenneville said. "Johnny is an important part of our team, and he really helps our power play and our offense. So his return will certainly spark our team, too."

Liles, who has scored 17 of his 29 points on the power play, is eager to have his name erased from the injured reserve list.

"I tried it last week and was doing OK, and then I started to get into the heavy stuff and it is one of those things where it is either good enough or it's not," he said. "Last week, it wasn't good enough. (Monday) was my first day back on the ice in four days, so we'll see.

"Even if we were on a six- or seven-game winning streak, I'd be anxious to get in there. With the circumstances of us being in a playoff race, it makes you want to get back in there even sooner. But the training staff, coaching staff and everybody has agreed we have to make sure that it's good enough to play on and not something where I have to leave in the middle of the game or take more time off."

May, a hard-working, gritty forward, was skating on the fourth line during practice.

"I feel like I can play, I feel like I'm ready," he said. "I was healthy when I got hurt, so you are never protected against getting hurt. I'm certainly not afraid of that.

"There's no question I'm starting to feel pretty healthy. I feel (the shoulder), but I'll probably feel it for the rest of the year, anyway. I can't wait to be able to come back and do my best to contribute.

"It's going to be an awfully exciting finish for us, especially when we make the playoffs. . . . I just want to be a part of that."

The Avalanche has lost four of five and has fallen into 10th place in the Western Conference. The Avalanche is eight points behind Minnesota, which holds the eighth and final playoff position. The Avalanche was only four points behind the Wild before a 5-3 loss Thursday against Minnesota.

"You look at the standings, and every team has a purpose behind every single game and we need to get back in that race," Quenneville said. "It seems like we were there going into the Minnesota game. There's a little gap now, and it creates added urgency to the importance of our games."

Panthers at Avalanche

When: 7 tonight.

Where: Pepsi Center.

TV/radio: Altitude. KKFN-AM (950).
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