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Avs' mentality: It's our last stand

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 27, 2001


DENVER -- The Avalanche better keep its focus on the present because the futures of some of its biggest stars are uncertain.

Defenseman Ray Bourque has not ruled out retirement, and goaltender Patrick Roy, center Joe Sakic and defenseman Rob Blake could become unrestricted free agents. Keeping them together will require an armored car full of money.

The four made a combined $26.2-million this season.

"Right from the beginning of the year we knew we would have to find a way to get the job done this year," Sakic said. "We don't know what the future is going to be for a few guys. This could be our best chance, so we have to make the best of it."

None of the players is making a commitment for next season.

Blake, acquired from the Kings in February, said he wouldn't mind returning.

"It has been a great opportunity for me here," he said. "I have been treated first class.

"Any time you can get into a situation where you are going to have an opportunity to win, that's what any player in this league wants."

Bourque said he will discuss the option year of his contract after the playoffs. If Colorado wins the Cup, he may consider retirement.

"Once this is all said and done with, I will sit down, relax and think about it," Bourque said.

"If I want to play hockey, I could still play hockey."

BACK TO THE FUTURE: The Devils were 2-0 against the Avalanche in the regular season and outscored it 12-4. Devils coach Larry Robinson was not impressed.

"When you get to this point, so much has changed," he said. "Everybody is playing at their best. I don't think we saw them at their best in those two games, but we can take solace in the fact at least we played well in those games."

FORSBERG'S FUTURE: Avalanche coach Bob Hartley continues to be questioned about the possible return of Peter Forsberg, who had his spleen removed May 9 after Colorado's seventh-game clincher against Los Angeles in the Western Conference semifinals.

Forsberg took to the ice Friday in shorts and sneakers and took a few light shots. But Hartley said his star center is still not expected to play in the final.

"Like I said, we are going to see him at training camp," Hartley said.

Hartley reiterated that Forsberg is still part of the Stanley Cup effort.

"He is part of us," he said. "I am very sure he won't miss a free meal."

IT'S NO PICNIC: Are the playoffs as much of a grind for coaches as players?

"There's lots of traveling and everything," Hartley said, "but it sure beats working in a windshield plant."

Which is exactly what Hartley did in Hawkesbury, Ontario, before becoming a coach.

ODDS AND ENDS: The final is being televised, either live or tape delayed, to 170 countries, including Vatican City. ... The NHL handed out about 1,000 media credentials. ... The last time the top two playoff seeds met in the final was 1989, when the Flames beat the Canadiens.

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