Avs validated moves by making playoffs

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:03 PM ET

There has to be a sense of relief for the Colorado Avalanche. Just think what a waste it would have been had they fallen short of the playoffs after picking up Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote at the trade deadline.

Without contracts next season, they'd be dead weight, because there's no guarantee either will be back in the Avalanche fold in the fall.

But they're in, and they have a great matchup against the Northwest Division champion Minnesota Wild ahead of them. To take advantage of the 'what's old is new again' philosophy by bringing back former Avs favourites Forsberg and Foote, they'll need those two players to shine.

Of course, a lot hinges on Forsberg's health. He signed Feb. 25, but has only been able to play in nine of 16 games, not counting the three he missed to get into the swing of things.

When he does play, though, he is a force to be reckoned with. Bad foot, bad groin, whatever else is troubling him health-wise, he produces when he's in the lineup.

He has a goal and 13 assists in those nine games, and the team went 8-1. Without him they have a 2-4-1 record.

"Peter's a special player," coach Joel Quenneville told reporters in Denver recently. "When he gets the puck, things generally happen. In the quiet areas (of the ice) when it looks like it's tight, all of a sudden everything kind of opens up."

After dealing with injuries to Ryan Smyth, Joe Sakic, Paul Stastny and Marek Svatos during the regular season, they'll need to stay healthy to make a serious run in the playoffs.

General manager Francois Giguere is excited about the possibilities after the team missed the post-season for the first time in 11 seasons a year ago -- falling one point short of the Calgary Flames.

"We've faced a lot of adversity this year with injuries and different things, and I'm pretty proud of our group," said Giguere.

"Health will be a big factor and we need to play consistently as a group and stay on track."

Forsberg's health may be more important than most. He makes everyone around him better.

Old pal Milan Hejduk hasn't had a great season. He and Flames winger Alex Tanguay formed the best second line in the game a few years back with Forsberg as their pivot.

Tanguay is gone, but Hejduk has picked up his play with Forsberg back on his team and racked up seven goals in seven games down the stretch. If the trend continues, the Avs hope to capture the magic that propelled them to the 2001 Stanley Cup.


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