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Published: Monday, 4/28/2008

Red Wings have Theodore, Avalanche reeling

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DENVER - Just two weeks ago, Jose Theodore sheepishly was fending off comparisons to Hall of Famer Patrick Roy that were coming at him fast and furious like so many shots from the Minnesota Wild.

Now he's sick and the Colorado Avalanche is ailing.

Theodore has been pulled in each of the Avs' two losses in the Western Conference semifinal series at Detroit, where he surrendered eight goals in less than four periods.

Peter Budaj has stopped 19 of 20 shots in his place, leading to speculation that he'll get the start in Game 3 when the series shifts to Denver tomorrow night.

"We'll talk about everything," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "But Jose has been our guy. Coming off what he went through is not easy. Budaj did a nice job in relief."

The Red Wings successfully switched their goaltenders midway through the first round of the playoffs, benching Dominik Hasek in Game 4 while losing their second straight in Nashville, and Chris Osgood has won all four starts since.

Avs forward Ian Laperriere suggested the solution in Colorado might not have anything to do with who's minding the net.

"I think we need to play better in front of our goalie," Laperriere said. "We're not playing as strong as we did in front of our goalie as we did in the first series."

Theodore said he'll be ready to start Game 3, "but it's not my call."

The banged-up Avs have more concerns than just their goaltender. Peter Forsberg didn't play in either of the first two games after the team said he aggravated a strained groin in the skatearound before Game 1.

"He knows his body and he said he was unable to go," Quenneville said after Game 2. "He's made a real impact since he's been there. He gives the opposition a lot to think about. We think he's pretty close."

Detroit coach Mike Babcock is counting on Colorado coming back at full strength in Denver.

"Forsberg will be back. Theodore is sick. He'll be back, and he'll be better," Babcock said.

That's part of his message about not relaxing with a 2-0 lead like the Red Wings did in the first round.

"All we have to do is go back to the last series. We were in the same scenario, and we went to Nashville and didn't win a game [until Game 6]," Babcock said.

With Forsberg out and watching and Theodore sick and struggling, nobody has capitalized more than Johan Franzen, who had two goals in Detroit's series-opening 4-3 win and scored three times in the Red Wings' 5-1 victory Saturday night.

To get back into this series, the Avalanche are going to have to figure out a way to stop the "Mule."

"He's got a hot stick right now," Quenneville said. "Everything he touches seems to be going in. We have to be a little more tighter to him."

A return to stellar play in net, be it from Theodore or Budaj, along with Forsberg's return to the ice would help the Avs.

"I'm pretty sure that, unless Forsberg's leg's gonna fall off, he'll probably be in there for Game 3," Detroit enforcer Darren McCarty said. "And they're a veteran team. They're well-coached and they've got guys that have been in different situations like this before. It's not like they're a young team, so they can draw on a lot of experience."

Penguins 2, Rangers 0

PITTSBURGH - Jordan Staal scored a power-play goal in the second period and Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made the lead stand up, giving the Penguins a home-ice sweep of the first two games of their second-round series.

Staal's goal came with older brother Marc, a Rangers defenseman, on the ice, and was all the offensive support Fleury needed while making 26 saves. Fleury helped the Penguins kill off two key Rangers power plays in the final six-plus minutes and Adam Hall scored into an empty net with 16.7 seconds remaining.

Games 3 and 4 will be tomorrow and Thursday nights at Madison Square Garden, where Pittsburgh is 0-3-1 this season.

Stars 5, Sharks 2

SAN JOSE - Mike Modano scored the tiebreaking goal early in the Stars' four-goal third period, and Marty Turco made 29 saves.

Brad Richards scored the tying goal on an awful San Jose turnover in the opening minute of the third

period, and Niklas Hagman added two insurance goals in the Stars' eighth win in nine trips to San Jose.



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