Kariya practices, could be ready for Game 6

Updated: May 6, 2004, 2:48 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche forward Paul Kariya returned to practice Monday for the first time in nearly a month and could be ready for Game 6 against San Jose.

Kariya has missed all 10 of Colorado's playoff games after spraining his right ankle in the season finale April 4. He started skating on his own last week and didn't appear limited in his first practice.

Kariya's status for Tuesday night's game will be determined after Colorado's morning skate.

"It felt pretty good today, so hopefully I'll be able to go," Kariya said. "If I'm ready to play, I'm going to do my best to help my team win."

Kariya signed with former teammate Teemu Selanne on the same day in the offseason in a move that was supposed to make Colorado one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

Neither had the impact the Avalanche anticipated. Kariya played just 51 games because of a wrist injury and Selanne had one of his worst seasons.

Still, Kariya's return could be a big lift for the Avalanche, particularly if forward Alex Tanguay and top defenseman Rob Blake are out. Kariya had 11 goals and 25 assists in the regular season and his speed would give the Sharks one more player to worry about in a lineup that includes Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk.

"Paul skated well. I don't think you ever have to worry about Paul's conditioning," Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. "If he missed a year, he's going to come back and look like he's skating very well. Hopefully, he'll be able to play."

Tanguay has played the last two games with a lower body injury, but had limited mobility. He didn't practice Monday.

Blake sat out Game 4 with an upper body injury and played just one shift in Colorado's 2-1 overtime victory Saturday. He also missed Monday's practice.

Both players will be evaluated after Tuesday's morning skate.

San Jose leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, but has lost the last two games. A win in Game 6 and Colorado would have a chance to become just the third team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-0. Game 7 would be Thursday in San Jose.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press