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Bob Hartley


C - Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Stephane Yelle, Chris Drury. LW - Valeri Kamensky, Milan Hejduk, Shean Donovan, Warren Rychel. RW - Theoren Fleury, Claude Lemieux, Adam Deadmarsh, Shjon Podein, Jeff Odgers. D - Sandis Ozolinsh, Sylvain Lefebvre, Adam Foote, Alexei Gusarov, Jon Klemm, Aaron Miller, Greg deVries, Cam Russell, Eric Messier. G - Patrick Roy, Craig Billington.


Theoren Fleury, rw, knee (day-to-day); Peter Forsberg, c, elbow (day-to-day).


Assigned Marc Denis, g, to Hershey (AHL). Traded Rene Corbet, lw, and Wade Belak, d, to Calgary Flames for Theoren Fleury, rw, Chris Dingman, lw, and future considerations. Assigned Dingman to Hershey.


2/23 Vancouver      T 4-4
2/25 Pittsburgh     L 3-2
2/27 Nashville      W 3-1
3/01 Edmonton       L 4-3
3/03 at Florida     W 7-5
3/04 at Tampa Bay   L 2-1
3/07 at Pittsburgh  W 3-1


Northwest Division  GP   W   L   T   PTS   GF   GA  
  Colorado          64  32  24   8    72  177  159  
  Edmonton          64  25  29  10    60  178  168  
  Calgary           63  23  30  10    56  165  178  
  Vancouver         64  19  35  10    48  154  200


by Greg D'Avis, Colorado Correspondent

Have you heard? They ceded the Cup to the Avalanche. Rest of the season is cancelled.

Ok, not really, but to see the reaction in Denver in the days following The Trade, you'd have thought the Avalanche just earned a playoff bye -- for three rounds.

The mediocre play of late notwithstanding, it's exciting around here these days. Even though he only got into one game before hurting his knee, Theo Fleury has captured the town's imagination.

But before Theo came to town, there were other games to play, throwing a monkey wrench into the chronology of this column. First came the much-ballyhooed return of ex-Avs coach Marc Crawford, who left the team in an acrimonious dispute that we all heard way too much about last summer.

The game resolved nothing, as the Avs underachieved enough to not win (but not enough to actually lose to the rotten Canucks). No one killed each other, and newspaper columnists got to, once again, exhaust the whole did-he-fire-or-did-he-quit thing. Oh boy.

Thus inspired, Colorado went right out and lost their next game, breaking the streak of four straight ties. The Czechs caused problems, as Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka rallied the Pens from a third-period deficit to win.

Next up were the pesky Predators, who the Avalanche had yet to beat this year despite the fact that they're (remember?) an EXPANSION team. Thankfully, Adam Deadmarsh - who's been hot -- played one of his best games of the year, playing a part in each goal, checking, and even cleaning the ice between periods.

And then came Theo. The news was big enough to push the Denver press' year-long coverage of "John Elway: His 4,000 Greatest Moments" down a bit. The news energized the town, especially since all that was given up was checking winger Rene Corbet, perennial prospect Wade Belak and future considerations (more on that later).

And boy did it energize the Avalanche, as they spotted Edmonton a four-goal lead in Game 1, W.F. (With Fleury). Oooooooooooooops.

But then, things got a little funky. Fleury -- already serving as a sparkplug -- scored a third period goal. Then Valeri Kamensky. Then Aaron Miller. Unfortunately, close only counts in saturation bombing, and though the comeback won points for style, the judges were unimpressed with the lack of finishing ability and awarded the win to the Oilers.

Still, Fleury was great to watch, all over the ice. On a line with Joe Sakic and Kamensky, the three were all over the place, mixing up the Oilers defense and only kept in check by a stellar performance from Bob Essensa and the Hand of God.

After the game, it was revealed that Fleury had sprained a knee and was out indefinitely. Again, oooooooooooooops.

Having learned a little something, the Avalanche let the Panthers run out to a five-goal lead in the next game. Then, Peter Forsberg was released from the cryogenic chamber and preceded to show that little punk Pavel Bure (a hat trick? Hah!) what it's all about.

As the nation turned into Monica, Forsberg put on a hockey clinic the likes of which hasn't been seen since the last time ol' Foppa went nuts. Six points -- three goals, three assists -- in just over a period, sending Florida goalie Sean Burke into the witness relocation program.

Forsberg came out the next game and got hurt. See a pattern? In said game, the Avalanche were wiped out by mighty Tampa Bay, an effort that prompted Sakic to offer some rare public criticism of the team. Well-deserved, too. I mean, Tampa Bay?

And, while the effort wasn't entirely there, some spark and character returned as the Avalanche rallied to beat Pittsburgh. Craig Billington was crazy in relief of a flu-ridden Patrick Roy in goal, and Milan Hejduk -- how do you say "clutch" in Czech? -- got his second game-winning comeback goal in three games, making half of the rookie's goals this year game-winners. And, believe me, it's all because I repeatedly misspelled and mispronounced his name early in the season. Inspired the guy.

So, it's been uneven lately. But life's uneven. And the Avalanche are facing the playoffs with a rested Fleury, a rested Forsberg, and the best collection of skill you've seen in recent years.


The Avs aren't done trading. With Fleury's acquisition, the Avs now have seven first-two-liners (and -- do the math -- only six spots): Sakic, Forsberg, Fleury, Adam Deadmarsh, Valeri Kamensky, Claude Lemieux and Hejduk.

Sakic, Forsberg and Fleury are all automatic. Deadmarsh has played extremely well of late, and they need his physical presence up top. Kamensky and Hejduk need to be on an offensive line to be effective. Lemieux needs to be on and offensive line to be happy.

The odd man out? Color Kamensky gone. He's an unrestricted free agent this summer. He's said he won't be back.

Talks with Buffalo fell through because the Avs want too much (defenseman Jay McKee). Vancouver continually pops up -- possibly as part of a deal for Alexander Mogilny -- except that it makes no sense. As a free agent, Kamensky's a rent-a-player, and the Canucks are almost a sure bet to miss the playoffs. Plus, Mogilny's another offensive force, which the Avs don't need -- particularly if they are serious about getting Fleury for longer than a few months.

More likely destinations? Toronto; Boston; Carolina; San Jose. Those types of places.

Another rumored deal has Sylvain Lefebvre (another unrestricted free agent this summer) going to Tampa Bay. Fine, except that's even stupider than Kamensky-to-Vancouver. Recent games have exposed big flaws in the Avs defense, and Lefebvre has always been a tough defenseman in the playoffs. Plus, since Tamps Bay's going to finish farther out of the Cup race than most ECHL teams, they need a veteran defenseman for the stretch run like ... well, like the Avs need another skilled forward.

One deal that's likely to play out soon is the "future considerations" of the Fleury trade. There's a list of machinations far too complex to list (because I Don't entirely understand them), but the upshot is the Flames will get an Avs prospect (most likely junior defenseman Robyn Regehr, possibly Martin Skoula) and a draft pick, the place of which is determined by a.) the Avs' finish in the playoffs this year and b.) their success in signing Fleury. See, you didn't need to know all those little details, did you?

Goodbye, Rene

Lost in the excitement of the Fleury trade was the departure of Rene Corbet. Corbet's ice time had been reduced this season with the emergence of Chris Drury and acquisition of Shjon Podein, but he'll be remembered as one of the most entertaining Avalanche players to watch, one of the very few who always gave their all, and one who gave his heart to hockey all the time.

Calgary will love him, and we'll miss him.

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