BUFFALO - Those who knew what Peter Forsberg has been thinking the past few months say he wanted two things very badly - to come back to the NHL and have a chance to win another Stanley Cup.

When he decided he was capable of accomplishing the first part, he must have been weighing the chances of where he could accomplish the second.

And right now the Flyers are simply not a Stanley Cup contender. The Colorado Avalanche aren't either, sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference, but yesterday Forsberg chose to return to Denver regardless.

Forsberg, originally drafted by the Flyers, spent his first 10 seasons with the Colorado franchise and helped the Avalanche win two Stanley Cups. He came to the Flyers as a free agent before the 2005-06 season.

"Over the last several months, I have worked extremely hard in order for this to be possible. I am looking forward to putting this jersey on again," Forsberg said in announcing his return.

"I have so many great memories of my playing days in Denver. I'm excited about helping my new teammates and former teammates in the coming weeks, and hopefully I am able to do that in the very near future."

Forsberg signed a prorated, 1-year deal that binds him to Colorado only for the rest of this season. The deal reportedly is worth $1.1 million.

Forsberg has kept several NHL teams on the fence for weeks, including the Flyers, who were considered the front-runners since Forsberg played only 40 games for them last season before being traded to Nashville for Ryan Parent and Scottie Upshall.

The Flyers were forced into a trade when Forsberg, with a gimpy right foot, wouldn't commit to a long-term deal and couldn't be sure if he would even play this season.

Forsberg, a free-agent center, has spent the entire season in Sweden trying to recover from yet another foot surgery - one he had in Denver last fall - and the Flyers wanted him back. Even playing at the speed he was at last season, as a Flyer he was good for a point a game and was still one of the best passers in the league.

Forsberg was seriously considering a return to the Flyers, but with the team's February collapse, mounting injuries and playoff hopes slipping away, he must have changed his mind.

"When you get a guy holding out like that you know he's looking at the pros and the cons. He probably had it narrowed down to a few teams and when push came to shove we haven't cut it, basically," said Scott Hartnell, who played with Forsberg in Nashville last season.

"We're still in the race," Hartnell said of the playoffs. "We know that ourselves, even though we lost 10 in a row and we have to bear down. We have lots of injuries and [Mike Richards] being out stinks, but we've got to fill that void with some guys stepping up."

Kimmo Timonen, who was also with Forsberg in Nashville last season, agreed.

"I'm sure he went through all the options he had," Timonen said. "When I talked to him a couple of months ago he told me either us or Colorado. Obviously, if you look at our team right now we have a lot of injuries and we haven't won a game in 10 games.

"In Colorado they have a lot of injuries. But they look like they're going to come back now. It's hard to say, but that's probably what he was thinking.'' *