ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There was a time when Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene would’ve been awed by his boyhood idol standing in the same vicinity, let alone skating on the same ice.
That was so eight years ago, though, when the 20-year-old’s room was filled with Peter Forsberg memorabilia.
Now that Forsberg’s skating with the Avalanche and mulling a return to the NHL, Duchene’s over the kid-like adoration.
Or so he thought.
His eyes lit up chatting about being on the same line as Forsberg during practice Tuesday. Duchene was suddenly that 12-year-old kid again, the one who sauntered around in a replica Forsberg jersey.
“We’d have potentially good chemistry,” Duchene excitedly said. “I’d like to get him in the lineup as soon as possible.”
Of course, that still remains to be seen.
Although Forsberg felt good after his second full practice, he’s far from ready to commit to anything. He’s still on a fact-finding mission, trying to determine if his chronically injured right foot can even handle the rigours of this level of hockey again.
His lungs were certainly objecting. Given the thin air and the Avalanche’s up-tempo play, Forsberg was worn out at the end of practice, coasting around the ice bent over at the waist.
“It’s getting better,” Forsberg said. “I can’t blame it on the altitude. It’s hard practices. I’ve got to keep on going.
“It’s been a couple of days and I’m starting to feel better. Keep on skating and keep on working and see where I’m at.”
While many of the Avalanche were finalizing their plans for the all-star break, looking forward to getting away, Forsberg was attempting to locate available ice time.
Just returning, he’s hardly ready for time away.
“I had my seven-year break so I don’t need those four days,” Forsberg said.
That’s how long his foot really hasn’t felt right. It’s bothered the Swedish star over the latter part of his career and caused him to consider hanging up his skates even though he felt like he could still play.
Forsberg returned to the Avs late in the 2007-08 season and finished with one goal and 13 assists in nine games. But he was hampered by a groin ailment that season and never really settled into a comfortable groove.
This time, if he decides to come back, it will be at full strength — or as close to it as he can come at 37 years old.
“I did not play well when I came back last time. I don’t want to be in that situation again,” said Forsberg, who turned in his most productive seasons with Colorado, capturing two Stanley Cup titles and the league’s MVP in 2003. “I don’t think I was happy with my play.”
So far, Avalanche coach Joe Sacco appreciates what he sees from Forsberg.
“He’s skating well. He looked good out there today,” Sacco said.
Not that long ago, Duchene was enamoured of Forsberg.
These days, it’s Forsberg who’s amazed by Duchene.
“I wish I had his legs, wouldn’t be no problem being out there,” Forsberg said of Duchene’s youthful energy. “He’s quick and playing really well. I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen so far from him.”
When word got back to him, Duchene returned the compliment — in his youthful way at least.
“If I can look that good at that age, after all those surgeries, I’d be counting my blessings,” said Duchene, who was recently selected to his first all-star Game.
“He looks good and hopefully gets back in the lineup soon.”
Any awe factor should that happen?
“I’m past that,” Duchene said. “I just watch him and try to learn from him. There’s no awe factor at all. If I was 12-year-old Matt, there might be. I’m 20 now and played quite a few games in the league as a young kid.
“But it’s pretty cool to have a guy like that.”