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PETER FORSBERG has returned to Colorado from Sweden and Adam Foote has reemerged from Columbus, but Avalanche goalie Jos� Th�odore has come back from the metaphorical dead. � You remember Th�odore. He was the Hart Trophy winner with the Canadiens in 2001--02, only the third time a goalie had been named NHL MVP since Jacques Plante in 1962. Th�odore then took a victory lap that, in essence, lasted more than five years. His save percentage slipped from .931 in his MVP season to .882 in '05--06 when, during a pre-Olympic screening in February, he tested positive for Propecia, the brand name of a hair-restoration product that is also a steroid-masking agent.
Traded to Colorado a month later, Th�odore helped nudge the Avalanche past Dallas in the first postseason round, though his play (he gave up three goals a game) and that of his Stars counterpart, Marty Turco, had all the elegance of a Three Stooges pie-throwing contest. After losing his job last season to unheralded Peter Budaj, Th�odore's confidence was shaken. His technique was in shambles.
But just when he appeared to have consigned himself to one-hit-wonder status, he clawed his way back with the good counsel of Colorado goaltending coach Jeff Hackett, his onetime backup on the Canadiens. "Last summer Jeff and I started saying that I had to get that desire back, to play like a rookie trying to earn a spot," says Th�odore. "Sometimes you forget how hard you worked to get there. Jeff always reminded me that he thought I was capable of being one of the best goalies in the league."
In breaking down tape Hackett and Th�odore noticed that the goalie was playing more upright and deeper in his crease than he had in Montreal. "By standing so straight, he was compromising one of his biggest assets, that explosive lateral push across the crease," says Hackett. "By coming out farther and being a little lower, Jos� [also] had better sight lines. He could see the play a little better."
Since Jan. 1, about the time he supplanted Budaj as Colorado's No. 1 keeper, Th�odore has ranked in the top three in goals-against average. He also had won six straight until a 3--0 loss on Sunday in Dallas. He has been noticeably squarer to shots, but also as acrobatic as ever. Says an Eastern Conference scout, "He looks just like the guy you used to see in Montreal."
Forsberg also looks a lot like the kind of player you used to see in his previous incarnation in Colorado: injury-prone. After playing effectively and generating two assists in three games since being lured back just before the trade deadline—the repatriation of the brilliant, brittle Forsberg could help sell what a team official estimated to be as many as an extra 30,000 tickets for Colorado's final 10 home games—the 34-year-old forward missed the Dallas match. (Defenseman Foote also sat out, with a hip injury.) Forsberg's problems normally revolve around his cranky right foot. (Once he puts the foot into his size-7 1/2 skates and plays a shift or two, it tends to shrivel by as much as a full size, a condition that has baffled his doctors for years. His heel starts slipping in the skate, creating balance problems.) This time, though, Forsberg was nursing a groin injury, most likely caused by the surfeit of skating that pressing to return to the NHL entailed.
In the modern sports argot Forsberg is a warrior (too bad he keeps being carried out on his Blue Shield), and Th�odore is a survivor. As Colorado battles for playoff position in the Western Conference cage fight, both are just what the team needs.
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