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Avs captain has been heroic down the stretch
By ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media


You can't cheer against Joe Sakic. You just can't.

As perhaps the classiest act in hockey and a man sure to captain Canada at the 2010 Olympics in his home province, the man is simply too good to be booed.

And so, despite ruining a post-game 'Dome celebration that saw a dejected Flames squad stick around to hand select fans the jerseys off their backs, it's likely the sweater of choice would have been Sakic's No. 19.

"I'll have one of his jerseys at the end of the year and too bad for them -- if they want one, maybe I'll sell it to them," laughed Avs pest Ian Laperriere whose club fought back from two deficits.

"I'm sure they were impressed by Joe's play like we are. Hey, if your leader shows up every night -- a living legend -- and works that hard on and off the ice, who are we not to show up?"

Pacing his squad to its 13th win in its last 16 outings, Sakic was the best player on the ice all night with a four-point effort that stole the show, not to mention the chance for the hosts to clinch the West's final playoff spot.

Although it's clear his heroics simply postponed the Avs' inevitable fall, the 37-year-old captain was simply unwilling to let his club miss the playoffs for the first time since 1993-94 when they were Quebec's Nordiques.

"Obviously, we need some help still but we just wanted to hold off the celebration," said Sakic, who set up the Avs' third goal before scoring the winner in a 4-3 triumph.

"We held them off for another day. Six weeks ago, we wouldn't have thought this was possible but guys are excited and everybody has chipped in over this stretch."

No one more than Sakic, who has 14 goals and 26 assists in his last 28 games.

In seven outings against the Flames this season, the 37-year-old has 17 points, propping up a point total (95) he hasn't hit since his Hart Trophy-winning season of 2000-01.

"He's 37 years old for crying out loud and plays 25 minutes a game," marvelled Laperriere. "He's got nothing to prove -- he's won everything. There's just something inside driving him to be the best he can be. He doesn't talk much in the room or scream at anybody, he just shows up."

And wins.

"He's carrying our team and it's a big honour to be on a team with such a superstar," chimed in goalie Peter Budaj.

"His leadership is second to none in the game," added coach Joel Quenneville.

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