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Avalanche face plenty of off-season questions following second-round sweep

DENVER - The Reunion Tour didn't go exactly as planned for the Colorado Avalanche.

Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote rejoined Colorado captain Joe Sakic in Denver for the second half of the season and helped the Avalanche return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.

After roaring past Minnesota in the first round with the perfect mix of youth and experience, however, the Avs were hit by a spate and injuries and humbled in a four-game sweep by the Detroit Red Wings.

No Stanley Cup redux.

"Maybe in a month or a couple of months maybe it looks different," Andrew Brunette said. "But right now it feels pretty disgusting. ... I really felt this team had a good chance."

In a few months, the Avalanche's roster could look very different.

Was this Forsberg's farewell or will he regain his health and return again next season?

Does Sakic lace up his skates for a 20th season in the NHL after missing 38 games at age 38?

Will Jose Theodore, so dominant in the first round and so dismal in the second, return to mind the net?

After the Avs' 8-2 demolition at the hands of Detroit on Thursday night, Forsberg, 34, hinted that his brilliant but injury-riddled career was over if he can't figure out a way to get healthy.

He said the groin pulls - an MRI revealed tears in both sides Wednesday - that kept him out of nine of 18 regular season games and three of four games in the second round of the playoffs were related to his ankle problems that sidelined him most of the season before he began his comeback in Colorado.

Forsberg has been to see too many doctors to count and has tried so many skates that he's lost track.

"I'll give it a couple of more tries here and see if we can figure out the problem and get it solved," he said. "But at least I can say if I don't get to play any more hockey I've done everything I possibly could to get it fixed, and I can be satisfied with that.

"It's been a tough couple of years not playing at my best and getting hurt."

Whether or not this was it for him, Forsberg said he has no regrets about returning.

"Maybe I was stupid to come back this year, but I had nothing to lose," he said.

And he always would have had regrets had he not returned to Colorado for one more go-round.

"We tried. I was in and out of the lineup, but we did well when I was in there," Forsberg said. "It was great to be back playing with Joe. I didn't play my best but it was great to be back."

And if he does return in 2008-09, it would only be with the Avs, he said.

Last year, Sakic awoke on the first day of his off-season to a one-year, US$6.75 million contract. This year, he didn't immediately re-up for another season.

"I'm going to take some time to think about it, discuss it with my family," Sakic said. "I haven't made up my mind and I'll make it up when it's time."

Age might finally be catching up with Sakic, who missed 38 games after hernia surgery.

Theodore's future in Colorado is up in their air after his inconsistent post-season performance that epitomized his up-and-down 2 1/2 years in Colorado.

After winning back his job from Peter Budaj halfway through the season, Theodore was hailed as a hero for helping the Avs upset the Wild in the first round, but then he came down with the flu and didn't finish three of the games against Detroit.

His poor performance as the Red Wings swept the Avalanche 8-2 Thursday night might have been his last game in a Colorado sweater.

Theodore allowed eight goals in less than four periods in the Avs' two losses at Detroit, "and it seemed we couldn't get the rhythm back," he said. It didn't help that Forsberg (groins), leading scorer Paul Stastny (knee) and forwards Ryan Smyth (foot) and Wojtek Wolski (ribs) joined Marek Svatos (knee) on the bench during the series.

"At one point, it's easy to use that as an excuse," Foote said. "At another, it's easy to try to be noble. It is what it is. People get injured in the playoffs. There's nothing you can do about it."

The sweep has the Avalanche's 13 unrestricted free agents pondering their future sooner than they would have liked.

Forsberg, Sakic, Theodore, Brunette and Foote are all popular, unrestricted free agents with seven-figure salaries, as is defenceman John-Michael Liles. Svatos leads the pack of six restricted free agents.

General manager Francois Giguere will have a busy summer and upward of $21 million of salary cap space with which to work. He'll also have to decide if coach Joel Quenneville returns.


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