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Seeking a crack at final frontier // AVALANCHE

Mike Ricci, an avid bass fisherman, knows a thing or two about patience. When the fish aren't biting, the Colorado Avalanche center kicks back and waits. When nagging injuries limited his goal scoring this season, he never lost confidence.

Tuesday afternoon, a day after the Avalanche was rocked 5-2 by the Red Wings, forcing tonight's Game 6, Ricci didn't appear the slightest bit nervous. If he was, he hid it well.

"They're the ones facing elimination, not us," Ricci said. "It's 3-2, we're home, and we're still in the driver's seat. This is getting funner and funner."

Goalie Patrick Roy, who didn't have one of his better games Monday, also shrugged off the loss.

"They have a right to win one game at home. I mean, they did win 62 games in the regular season," Roy said. "But who's leading 3-2? If they lose, they're done. If we lose, we go back to Detroit and have another chance. Of course, we want to do it in front of our fans, but they're still under more pressure than us."

Ricci won many make-believe Stanley Cups in the streets of Scarborough, Ontario. He remembers carrying an invisible cup overhead, shouting with joy, dreaming about what it would be like to feel the real thing. Now, he's one victory from the championship series, and he's putting every ounce of his energy on the line.

"My team always won the Cup on the streets. Now I want to do it here," he said.

Monday night, Ricci became the first Nordique/Avalanche to get two power-play goals in a game since Michel Goulet did it against Montreal on Oct. 21, 1985. He is on a five-game points streak, and has four goals and 11 assists in the playoffs after just six goals and 21 assists in the 82-game regular season.

"I try to forget about the regular season," he said. "This is playoff time, and everything is completely different."

Despite his recent surge, Ricci wasn't satisfied with his minus-3 rating Monday night. He was most upset with Sergei Fedorov's goal in the second period. Fedorov beat Ricci on the face-off, passed the puck to Paul Coffey, then knocked Coffey's soft shot between Roy's legs.

"They got the rebounds and buried them, and you gotta give them credit for that," he said. "But our team can play better, and I know we will. We can't let them get those second shots."

As much as he loves fishing, Ricci said he's more than happy to stay off the lake until mid-June.

"Playing in a Stanley Cup final is a dream for me, and it's so close now I can almost feel it," he said.

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