By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 26, 2001
DENVER -- When Bryan Muir described the season as "quite a roller-coaster ride," he wasn't kidding.
The depths? When the Lightning, one of the NHL's worst teams, shipped him to the minors.
The heights? Well, that would be right now as the Avalanche defenseman prepares for today's first game of the Stanley Cup final at the Pepsi Center.
"It's really exciting to be where I am," Muir said Friday. "It makes you feel good that in the end, if you work hard, you get somewhere."
Muir said he shouldn't have played through an ankle injury during the 1999-2000 season.
"I'm the first to admit I wasn't the player I wanted to be," he said. "I was awful."
When he struggled this season, Tampa Bay sent him to the IHL's Detroit Vipers. He was traded to Colorado in January for an eighth-round draft pick.
Muir, 27, thrived with the Hershey Bears, Colorado's AHL affiliate, and was a team-high plus-17 when he was called up to the Avalanche on March 21. He played eight regular-season games and has played three in the playoffs.
"What went on earlier in the year is behind me," Muir said. "Four more wins and we hoist the Cup above our heads. I just want to take that in and enjoy it."
ROAD WARRIORS: The Devils, 6-2 on the road in the playoffs, know they need a good start in Denver. New Jersey swept the Red Wings for the 1994-95 Cup after winning the first two games in Detroit.
"We've got to forget about whether we are home or away," right wing Randy McKay said. "You slow up. You put the fans, you put everything behind you. You just keep your focus. It doesn't matter where we are going to play."
SURVIVORS: Six Avalanche players remain from the 1995-96 Cup team: goaltender Patrick Roy; centers Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Stephane Yelle, and defensemen Adam Foote and Jon Klemm.
"It is about injuries. It is about emotions. It is about confidence," Foote said. "The six of us that are left, we can use our experiences to help each other out."
STEVENS PEEVED: New Jersey defenseman Scott Stevens said he did not tell a newspaper the Devils are better than the Avalanche.
"I was a little embarrassed to read that," he said. "I was asked if this (Devils) team was better than last year. I said I thought it was."
YOU'RE ON: New Jersey Gov. Donald DiFrancesco and Colorado Gov. Bill Owens have placed their bets.
If the Devils win, DiFrancesco gets a three-night stay at a Colorado ski resort. If the Avalanche wins, Owens and his family get a weekend at the Jersey shore.
SIMPLY THE BEST: Devils coach Larry Robinson had high praise for Colorado's Milan Hejduk, who leads the playoffs with 20 points.
"Hejduk has probably the best hands of any player I've seen in today's game," he said.