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Avalanche could be looking for new captain

The Sports Xchange

--The Avalanche could have a different captain for the third time in four years next season if Milan Hejduk decides to retire or if the team chooses not to re-sign him. "At this point, I really don't know," said Hejduk, 36, who will be eligible for unrestricted free agency July 1 but has said he wouldn't play for another team. "I have to take some time, think about a lot of things and talk to my family on what I am going to do and what my options are." Hejduk scored 14 goals this season, matching the career low he set when he was a rookie in 1988-89. He had one goal in his final 25 games, and his 37 points were a career low. Hejduk replaced Adam Foote as captain when Foote retired after last season (Foote replaced Joe Sakic, who retired in 2009). A native of the Czech Republic, Hejduk ranks second in franchise history for games (991), fourth in goals (371) and points (794), and fifth in assists (423). Only two Czech-born players in NHL history have registered more points, Jaromir Jagr (1,652) and Patrik Elias (893). Hejduk is the last remaining player from the Avalanche's 2001 Stanley Cup championship team.

--Third-year center Matt Duchene played the final 19 games with a brace on his left knee and a right ankle that wasn't fully healed after he hurt it in a March 6 game against Minnesota. He missed 20 games after injuring the knee Dec. 29 against Phoenix, played nine games and sat out four games with the ankle ailment when he was expected to be sidelined for as many as four weeks. His only goal in 10 games after returning from the ankle injury came in the season finale, a 6-1 loss to Nashville. "My weapons are my legs and I didn't have it," Duchene said. "I was kind of stuck in third gear for the last little bit. I kind of had to learn a new way to play. It was a perfect storm. I came back when everyone else was elevating their game and I was pretty much starting from scratch. I came back and got hurt again. It was tough. I probably could have handled it better for sure. I'm 21 years old and it was the first time I've ever been through that. I'm going to learn a lot and it's going to make me better and I'm looking forward to that."

"I'm trying to stay positive. I saw a lot of positives in this season. It definitely was way better than last year. We came up a little short, but there's a lot of good young players here and this team will only get better." -- Avalanche captain Milan Hejduk, whose team has missed the playoffs two years in a row and three times in the past four seasons.

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