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Test spin for Forsberg

Condition of one wheel is an issue

The Bruins’ Brad Marchand crushes Matt Duchene in the first period, although he takes out teammate Nathan Horton, too. The Bruins’ Brad Marchand crushes Matt Duchene in the first period, although he takes out teammate Nathan Horton, too. (Barry Gutierrez/Associated Press)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / January 23, 2011

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DENVER — Comebacks following career-threatening injuries aren’t guaranteed Hollywood endings. In 1998, Cam Neely, out of the game for two years, attempted a return to the NHL that was halted when the pain in his hip forced the current Bruins president to hang up his skates for good.

Yesterday, Peter Forsberg kicked off a process he hopes won’t conclude the way Neely’s comeback did.

The former Avalanche star, beset by foot injuries over the last seven years, skated at the Pepsi Center for 45 minutes alongside injured forward Ryan O’Reilly. The 19-year-old O’Reilly was born during Forsberg’s rookie season in the Swedish Elite League.

“The foot is definitely better,’’ Forsberg said. “But I don’t know how good it is. I’m not young anymore. I’m past the average.

“I want to see where I’m at. I’m really fortunate to come over here and try to play and practice with this team and see where I’m at.’’

Forsberg, who won two Stanley Cups with Colorado, had been skating all season alongside junior players for MoDo, his longtime Swedish club. Like most professionals whose careers have been interrupted — and sometimes finished — by injuries, Forsberg continued to feel he had some jump remaining in his game.

Forsberg last played in the NHL in 2007-08. That year, he appeared in nine games for Colorado, recording one goal and 13 assists, before a groin injury ended his season.

Most recently, Forsberg had 11 goals and 19 assists in 23 games last season for MoDo alongside former NHLers Markus Naslund and Mattias Timander. Forsberg has not played this season.

So Forsberg asked agent Don Baizley to inquire around the NHL about picking up some practice time. Naturally, given his client’s ties with the Avalanche, Baizley called Greg Sherman. The Colorado general manager gave his approval, Forsberg flew from Sweden to Denver Friday, and he hit the ice yesterday morning.

With assistant coach Steve Konowalchuk leading the session, Forsberg and O’Reilly skated, shot pucks, and went through simple drills. Forsberg wore a gray Avalanche practice jersey and his usual No. 21 on the back of a black helmet.

Forsberg, looking heavier than he was in his elite Colorado years, said he could feel the effects of Denver’s altitude, and he is not close to game shape.

His plan is to practice with Colorado for at least a week before determining the next step.

Asked whether he has considered retirement, Forsberg said, “Plenty of times. But I don’t feel like I’m done. I feel like I have more to give.

“People say, ‘Are you crazy?’ I could call it quits. But I guess I love hockey.’’

At Forsberg’s best — he had 30 goals and 86 assists during the 1995-96 Cup run — the center was a potent mix of skill and bite. He played at a reckless pace that caused opponents to retreat, giving him time and space to work his magic.

Forsberg had plenty of help during Colorado’s best seasons, with teammates that included Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, and Alex Tanguay.

Forsberg’s approach, however, most assuredly led to his injuries, which included a ruptured spleen, dislocated wrist, broken hand, and that pesky foot.

Forsberg said yesterday he has undergone more than 10 foot operations. He acknowledged that he was scared during shootouts in the last handful of seasons because he was afraid he might fall.

If Forsberg and the Avalanche are satisfied with his progress, the 37-year-old can sign with Colorado as a free agent. Because Forsberg has not played this season, he does not have to clear waivers. Sherman said there have been no contract talks.

The Avalanche could use another forward after losing Tomas Fleischmann for the year. Fleischmann, acquired from Washington Nov. 30 for Scott Hannan, was diagnosed with blood clots in both lungs.

Hunwick back in Former Bruin Matt Hunwick, a healthy scratch for Colorado’s 5-1 loss to Nashville Thursday, was back on coach Joe Sacco’s blue line against his old team yesterday.

Hunwick, swapped to Colorado Nov. 29 to clear cap space for Marc Savard, has appeared in 24 games for Colorado. He has zero goals and three assists for his new club.

“You trade guys for reasons,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “Cap can be an issue, and making space for other people.

“He’s a good person. He’s a good player. I had a chance to chat with him real quick [Friday] in the hotel lobby. He seems very happy here.

“That’s what a coach likes to hear. When a guy moves on and he’s happy where he is, that’s great.’’

Hunwick, paired mostly with Kevin Shattenkirk, had 21:48 of ice time. He had one shot, two blocked shots, and one hit — the second-period check that knocked Savard out of the game.

Stuart sits Defenseman Mark Stuart was a healthy scratch. He was joined in the press box by forward Daniel Paille . . . Four-year Boston University forward Brandon Yip was a healthy scratch for Colorado. After the game, Yip chatted with Milan Lucic, his former junior teammate with the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express . . . Patrice Bergeron led all players with seven shots.

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