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MILE HIGH HOCKEY: Forsberg return close

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MILE HIGH HOCKEY

Peter McNab spent 14 years as a player in the NHL with Buffalo, Boston, Vancouver and New Jersey, scoring 913 points in 955 regular-season games. He's now in his 15th season as an NHL broadcaster, his seventh with the Colorado Avalanche. Peter brings his wealth of experience as a player and analyst to FOXSports.com each week. FOXSports.com: Have you had a chance to watch Peter Forsberg skate the past few days? Peter McNab: Oh yeah. He has skated extraordinarily hard. He skated hard again today, but he has not had any contact. I don't know if they're going to get him in for a game before the regular season ends or if he'll just come back come playoff time. FOXSports.com: Has he looked like he'll be ready soon? PM: Oh, skating-wise, he has done every single drill as hard as anyone can possibly do them. And he's been skating at the end with the extra skaters until all the others dropped. It's not a matter of them limiting his skating minutes here and there. He's out there for an hour, hour and a half every day. And he's skating some hard workouts. FOXSports.com: So do you think the reports of him possibly coming back Friday are realistic? PM: Who knows? Is the training staff and everybody comfortable with him jumping into that kind of contact? That would mean he'd have to practice Wednesday and Thursday with that kind of practice. Is that enough for the training staff? Or do you just say, "It's been long enough. It's going to be a crapshoot no matter what. Let's just drop him in when the playoffs start. That gives him another 10 days"? I wouldn't be surprised either way. But I would really be surprised if we didn't see him in the first round. Just from what I've seen so far. And that's a round earlier than everybody thought when he had his surgery in January. FOXSports.com: Is the focus for the Avalanche on the No. 2 spot in the conference standings right now? PM: I think so. But if you were to ask the Avalanche, "Would you like to have Forsberg back and No. 3 or no Forsberg and No. 2," they would take Forsberg and No. 3. Winning the division was something the organization itself had taken great pride in, so they really wanted to go for that. Now I think they'll take whatever comes. It's really in San Jose's hands. If San Jose runs the table, there's nothing the Avalanche can do. If it's there, obviously, they'll take it. I think they're going to go Patrick Roy-David Aebischer-Patrick Roy in goal for the last three games no matter what. That way Roy gets the rest and Aebischer gets a little work. If they were going absolutely after the No. 2 spot, it'd be Roy-Roy and then look and see what you need to do in the third game. I think they're comfortable with where they are in the standings because they know No. 6 and No. 7 can flip-flop very easily. FOXSports.com: Looking at that Western Conference race for the final playoff spots, it's a bit crazy right now. PM: Yeah, it really is. There's a huge game tonight with L.A. taking on Dallas. If Dallas loses, they're going to really need some help to get in. That means Chicago's disappeared (from striking range), L.A.'s disappeared, St. Louis is one game from disappearing, Phoenix is probably a game away from disappearing on them. So they're getting down to hoping another team is going to fall back. Vancouver is red hot, maybe as hot as anybody down there. So Dallas has really got to come up with a huge effort in tonight's game. It's going to be amazing. Edmonton and Dallas, two teams everybody would have thought were sure locks (for the playoffs) are on the outside looking in and both look like they're going to need a little help if they're going to get in. FOXSports.com: Is that situation more surprising in Dallas' case? PM: Oh, absolutely. They won five straight division titles, they went out and did some very free spending and there's not one of the free agents that worked out. It's just one of those things. When you look at the players, they're all good players. It just didn't work there. Going from winning five divisions in a row to not being in the playoffs, that's a huge surprise. FOXSports.com: Their loss in Anaheim didn't help much last night. PM: Oh yeah. But Anaheim's becoming that team nobody wants to play. They're just sort of beating up on everybody right now. They're picking teams to death. They play that tight defensive system. They've got a better defense than people realize. The goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguerre is going to be a good goaltender. They have to be pleased. They'd like to have a few more forwards, but who wouldn't? Hopefully it's going to be a little bit of a turnaround for them and maybe they can use that as a springboard for next year. FOXSports.com: Over in the East, it looks like Montreal is closer to securing their spot. PM: Yeah, they need one point to eliminate Buffalo and one win to eliminate Washington. You talk about big-money teams like the New York Rangers, Washington and Dallas missing the playoffs? With the money those teams have spent? Holy smokes! That's a lot of cash. FOXSports.com: Montreal also look like they're getting Saku Koivu back from his battle with cancer tomorrow night. PM: Yes. Now you're talking about a story that's almost too good to believe. He seems to be just a tremendous guy. You can't get anybody who just doesn't rave about what kind of person he is. Those are the feel-good stories where you wish you were there to be one of the people cheering for him when he steps on the ice. FOXSports.com: Last week people were looking at the Hart Trophy race and touting Jarome Iginla as the league's MVP. What do you think about the season he's had, especially on a non-playoff team? PM: Oh, man. When you look at what everyone else has done, for him to have a 50-goal season, you're talking about a guy who's scored 20 percent more goals than the next guy. He's got 51 and Bill Guerin's got 40. That's a ton of goals. To win the scoring race out of nowhere like that, to score a couple of goals in the gold medal game, we may be looking at the first restricted free agent that somebody's actually going to take a shot at this summer. Because he looks like he's got the whole package going for him.
Tagged: Bruins, Canadiens, Avalanche, Bill Guerin, Saku Koivu

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