By Michael Farber, SI.com
The tenderloin district in Denver is roughly three inches below Peter Forsberg's belt buckle, an area that is enticing and dangerous. You never quite know what's going to happen there.
Take Thursday. At the Colorado Avalanche morning skate, Forsberg pulled his groin. Again. Six hours later he was scratched from Game 1 of the second-round series in Detroit, which the Red Wings would pull out, 4-3, at Joe Louis Arena.
For the legion of Forsberg watchers in the hockey world, it is usually his chronically-injured foot that attracts most of the attention. (A Forsberg foot primer: because his foot curls in his skate, he has trouble maintaining his stride on the ice.) But in medicine as in corny song, the foot bone is connected to the groin. If his balance and skating mechanics are thrown off, his groin suffers.
In working so intensely to even make it back to the NHL this season, Forsberg, back in his native Sweden, skated hard for eight days before signing with Colorado prior to the February trading deadline. (Two days before Forsberg signed, Don Baizley, his agent, text-messaged another of his clients to say Forsberg wouldn't play in the NHL this season.) When Forsberg finally made it into the Colorado lineup, he was hit and miss. He played in nine of 18 regular season games. But he also made it through all six games of the first-round series against Minnesota, scoring a goal and adding four assists.
He looked ready for the playoff grind, although Forsberg is a unique combination of a player who is insanely tough yet wildly brittle, the human equivalent of crunchy on the outside and chewey on the inside.
But Forsberg, who left the arena without a limp, wasn't the only Avalanche casualty in and around Game 1. Left winger Wojtek Wolski departed with an "upper body" injury and goalie Jose Theodore was excused early in the second period after allowing his fourth goal on 16 shots. He soon departed for the Colorado hotel because of what the team called an illness, obliging the Avalanche to use Tyler Weiman, former star of the Colorado Eagles of the Central Hockey League, as the emergency backup to Peter Budaj - probably because Lester Patrick wasn't available. (Note: the Lester Patrick reference is no more obscure than Babe Ruth calling his shot. You can look it up or just move on. Up to you.)
Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said Forsberg would be day-to-day and left the impression that Wolski might be back for Game 2 Saturday. Theodore, who skipped the morning skate to husband his energy, might also recover sufficiently to play.
More surprising than Forsberg's absence in Game 1 was the teams, once bitter rivals, played politely. There were maybe two post-whistle scrums worthy of a second glance while the Avalanche could rouse itself for a mere 16 hits. Only 12 players remain on the rosters from the last of the five classic playoff series between the teams, in 2002 - four in Colorado, eight in Detroit - but there should be some kind of genetic memory implanted in the DNA of both franchises. More anger, please.
But as Quenneville sagely noted, you play to the score and "you can't manufacture" things. Now, if someone could only manufacture an artificial groin, Denver's infamous tenderloin district would really be in business.