OPEN MIC: Colorado's Peter Forsberg

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Jim Kelley

After a woeful start, the Colorado is perhaps the hottest team in the Hockey League right now. Their superb scoring center, , is leading the charge and garnering ample consideration for what would be his first Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player. Playing on a line with and , Forsberg led the league in scoring in February with four goals and 18 assists for 22 points in only 12 games. He is on a similar pace through March. FOXSports.com caught up with Forsberg during a recent appearance in Buffalo. Because of time constraints brought about by travel, the interview is supplemented with a few quotes Forsberg made during a league-wide conference call just a few days earlier. FOXSports.com: You missed the entire regular season last season with a variety of ailments including foot and ankle problems. How difficult is it to miss a year and then come back? : The good thing when you have been out for a long time is you are really prepared for coming back, you are in good shape, and the only thing is you are not in game shape. It takes a while to get into that. It doesn't come natural in the beginning. It just takes a while to get into (game shape). I have had people tell me that if you are out (of game shape) it is going to take as many games as you have been out to get back in playing as good as you did before. But I don't think that's true. FOXSports.com: Is that as much mental as it is physical? PF: They are two different things, but if you are fully recovered it only takes about 10 games or so. Mentally, you get into a rhythm pretty quick and it all comes back.
POSITION: Center for the Colorado
OTHER JOBS: Hero for the Swedish Team
WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW HIM: Because he may well prove to be the best foreign-born player to ever play the game. Forsberg is the complete package, a gritty, two-way player with phenomenal talent and a solid work ethic and competitive instinct. It was Forsberg Tuesday night who set up the game-tying goal with a stunning pass with just seconds remaining to lift the Avs into a 2-2 tie at Ottawa. The tie allowed the Avs to complete a 31-game stretch in which they lost only four games in regulation (20-4-3-3). Forsberg has keyed the attack, having picked up points in 36 of his last 42 games including 18 multi-point games in that span, including a six-point night against Nashville, a strong defensive team. Playing on a line with Milan Hedjuk and , one of the three have accounted for at least a point in 29 of the team's last 30 games. Forsberg is the league leader in assists this season and a candidate for the league scoring title and the Hart Trophy and Lester Pearson Trophy to awards that go to the league's best player as voted by the media and members of the player's association respectively.

FOXSports.com: Was that the case when you came back last season? When you finally did get back it was the playoffs. That's a different brand of hockey. PF: No, it wasn't too easy, jumping right into the playoffs, I mean every game is so important, so you have — you just had to, and I think I had a lot of pressure on me too because I missed — I mean, there was a lot of things going on in that year. I just worked out the whole year and I was really looking forward to coming back, and playing well. FOXSports.com: European players for years now have had a solid history of impact on the game. You are a native of Sweden and a candidate for the scoring crown, as is Vancouver's , a fellow Swede. Last year the Avs played an exhibition game in Sweden. Next fall, the Toronto will do the same. What are your thoughts on globalization of the NHL game? PF: I think it's good. Unfortunately when we went over there what happened with September 11th (the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon) and all that stuff, so it was kind of a bad timing for us going there. But everybody in Sweden loved it when the team came over and now when Toronto goes over, (Mats) Sundin, he's born and raised in Stockholm. I think it is going to be a great experience. I know all the guys, even with what happened with the terror attack, I think everybody loved going over. Changing it up because we have been having the training over here all the other years, so I think the boys loved it and really looked forward to it. I think as long as you can do that, it is great. FOXSports.com: The next Olympics are in Europe. Do you want NHLers to play in that setting again? PF: Yeah, I hope so. I think it was really good for the game, and you talked to a lot of people who were watching that Canada-U.S. final. Unfortunately Sweden lost, but I think it is good for the game, and it's going to be a little tougher when the Olympics are not in the U.S., when it's over in Europe or when it was in Japan, it's tougher times to watch the games and it doesn't really get as much attention. But I think it's good for the game that the best players go there, and compete. FOXSports.com: Getting back to the scoring race, you and Naslund are not only two Swedes vying for the title, you both grew up in the same town and Naslund has said you were something of a hero to him as a kid. Is something like a scoring title important? Did you pay attention to things like that and the Stanley Cup when you were a kid? PF: I didn't really think about NHL that much when I grew up. It was not as much shown on TV, and telecast wasn't that you couldn't really see any games, or nothing like this. I grew up in a town that had an elite division team in Sweden, so that was kind of my dream to come up and play for that team. NHL was kind of out of my reach, I think. Nowadays for all the kids in Europe and everywhere, I think winning the Stanley Cup is the thing. I don't think people really dream about winning the scoring title. It's not for me, I mean, I'd rather win the Stanley Cup than the scoring. It wouldn't hurt to win one. FOXSports.com: Kids wanting to play for the Cup, is that a result of the European impact on the game here? You've done it and won it, kids have to have seen that. PF: I think so. I think kids nowadays want to be a part of the NHL. They want to play over here and become good. FOXSports.com: The scoring race seems to be coming down to you two guys. Do you think about Markus, the fact that you're from the same town, is it a rivalry thing? PF: We're friends off the ice, but when we get on the ice, you play for the team you are playing for — it's tough. We've played well lately, and they are a team that we are chasing (for a division title) so when he plays well it makes it harder for us to catch them, but I've got to say I am happy for him. He had a tough couple of first years but now he's playing real well and I am happy for him. FOXSports.com: Last season you were out for the season, this season your teammate, , has been injured for much of the season. There's a school of thought that says that when one or the other is out, the one remaining actually plays better. Is there anything to that? PF: I don't think so. On our team when someone can't play the rest of us just kind of draw together . . . This year we weren't playing well (as a team) at the start and we told each other that it doesn't matter how we play, we just have to start winning games and we have to do it now, and I think after that we started playing good hockey. Everybody had to pick it up. We knew that before we lost Joe and then we lost him, I think the next game, and everybody knew we had to pick it up. I think everybody has been doing that. We have been playing good hockey. We have been playing good defensive hockey that's I think how you win consistently nowadays, you play good defense. I think everybody knew that we had a rough start and we thought we were better than that, and when he went down, everybody just got together and started playing much better than we did before. FOXSports.com: You're known as a scorer but you play a strong defensive game. Do you take a certain pride in that? PF: I think our whole team does. Like I said, if you want to win you have to play that way. Scoring is only a part of the game. FOXSports.com: You had a coaching change, Tony Granato for Bob Hartley, that a lot of people didn't see coming. Clearly the team has reacted to that. Did you guys take off because of the change or was it something else? PF: I think it might be a little coincidence. I mean, Tony has been great since he came in, but I don't think I was playing as well as I wanted to at the beginning of the year either. I don't think the team did at all. I think getting on that line with Milan and Tanguay has helped a lot, too. Bob, he's a good coach, so you can't — I am not blaming any coaches for the way I was playing before. FOXSports.com: What's the goal the rest of the way? PF: We are a team that has played together for awhile now and the goal has always been to play as well as we can because if we do that we have a chance to win the Cup. The playoffs are coming soon and you want to be playing well then because you always think you have a chance to win the Cup. Jim Kelley can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Avalanche, Canucks, Joe Sakic, Alex Tanguay, Milan Hejduk, Markus Naslund, Peter Forsberg

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