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STANLEY CUP NHL PLAYOFFS

Western Conference Previews

May 02, 1997|HELENE ELLIOTT

AVALANCHE vs. OILERS

* Seedings, records: No. 1 Colorado (49-24-9), No. 7 Edmonton (36-37-9).

* Season series: Colorado 4-0-1.

* Top scorers: Colorado--Peter Forsberg 28-58--86. Edmonton--Doug Weight 21-61--82.

* Team goals-against: Colorado 2.47 (fifth), Edmonton 2.97 (16th).

* Power play: Colorado 20.6% (third), Edmonton 18.0% (sixth).

* Penalty killing: Colorado 87.6% (second), Edmonton 82.5% (18th).

* How they advanced: Colorado over Chicago in six games, Edmonton over Dallas in seven.

* Top playoff scorers: Colorado--Joe Sakic 3-9--12. Edmonton--Weight 2-6--8.

* Keys: The Avalanche looked vulnerable against the Blackhawks early in their series. Maybe they were just warming up--or they missed physical defenseman Uwe Krupp (pinched back nerve). He's possible for this series. Scott Young will replace Keith Jones (torn knee ligament) on the top line with Sakic and Adam Deadmarsh. Sakic, who lost his scoring touch while recovering from a gash in his leg, had at least one point in each game against Chicago. The differences for the Oilers against the Stars were speed and youth. Colorado has more talent and experience, and Patrick Roy (2.15 goals-against) is the NHL's best clutch goalie. Colorado in six.

*

RED WINGS vs. MIGHTY DUCKS

* Seedings, records: No. 3. Detroit (38-26-18); No. 4 Ducks (36-33-13).

* Season series: Ducks, 3-0-1.

* Top scorers: Detroit--Brendan Shanahan 47-41--88. Ducks--Teemu Selanne 51-58--109.

* Team goals-against: Detroit 2.35 (second). Ducks 2.80 (11th).

* Power play: Detroit 17.9% (seventh). Ducks 16.8% (ninth).

* Penalty killing: Detroit 86.7% (fourth). Ducks 81.5% (22nd).

* How they advanced: Detroit over St. Louis in six, Ducks over Phoenix in seven.

* Top playoff scorers: Detroit--Shanahan 3-3--6. Ducks--Paul Kariya 5-4--9.

* Keys: The Red Wings struggled and were shut out twice by the Blues before Coach Scotty Bowman reunited the "Russian Five" of forwards Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov and Vyacheslav Kozlov and defensemen Vladimir Konstantinov and Viacheslav Fetisov. Their familiarity and puck control got the offense rolling. The Red Wings have old legs on defense in Fetisov and Larry Murphy, who will be burned by the speed of Kariya and Selanne. The Ducks prevailed over the Coyotes because of that duo and goalie Guy Hebert (2.11 goals-against), but they can't do it again. They need goals from other sources because the Red Wings will get goals from every line. Detroit in six.

EASTERN CONFERENCE PREVIEWS

DEVILS vs. RANGERS

* Seedings, records: No. 1 New Jersey (45-23-14); No. 5 New York (38-34-10).

* Season series: New York, 2-1-2.

* Top scorers: New Jersey--Doug Gilmour 22-60--82. New York--Wayne Gretzky 25-72--97.

* Team goals-against: New Jersey 2.18 (first), New York 2.79 (10th).

* Power play: New Jersey 13.9% (23rd), New York 22.0% (first).

* Penalty killing: New Jersey 88.1% (first), New York 79.9% (25th).

* How they advanced: New Jersey over Montreal in five, New York over Florida in five.

* Top playoff scorers: New Jersey--John MacLean 5-3--8, New York--Gretzky 4-2--6.

* Keys: The Devils have never beaten the Rangers in the playoffs, but they have a good shot now. Goalie Martin Brodeur (1.90 goals-against) was solid against Montreal, and the Devils are the playoff leaders in power plays (nine for 28, 32.1%) and penalty killing (16 for 16, plus three short-handed goals). Twelve players have at least one goal. The Rangers fended off the Panthers with a strong defensive effort, and goalie Mike Richter (1.82 goals-against, .938 save percentage) was impressive. Their big guns--Gretzky, Messier, Brian Leetch and Luc Robitaille--played like stars, but they will have a tough time breaking through the Devils' disciplined defense. New Jersey in seven.

*

SABRES vs. FLYERS

* Seedings, records: No. 2 Buffalo (40-30-12); No. 3 Philadelphia (45-24-13). Buffalo gets higher seeding as Northeast Division champion.

* Season series: Buffalo 2-1-1.

* Top scorers: Buffalo--Derek Plante 27-26--53. Philadelphia--John LeClair 50-47--97.

* Team goals-against: Buffalo 2.49 (sixth), Philadelphia 2.61 (eighth).

* Power play: Buffalo 13.2% (26th), Philadelphia 14.6% (18th).

* Penalty killing: Buffalo 83.8% (13th), Philadelphia 85.7% (sixth).

* How they advanced: Buffalo over Ottawa in seven, Philadelphia over Pittsburgh in five.

* Top playoff scorers: Buffalo--Brian Holzinger 3-3--6, Philadelphia--Eric Lindros 3-6--9.

* Keys: As he left the ice for the last time, Mario Lemieux told Lindros that now is Lindros' time to lead. Leading the Flyers past the second round would be a good place to start. He can still be goaded into penalties--the Sabres will bait him--but he realizes he can't lead from the penalty box. The Flyers are bigger and more skillful than the Sabres but will miss second-line center Vaclav Prospal, who broke his wrist Wednesday. Sabre rookie goalie Steve Shields responded superbly in the absence of Dominik Hasek. If the Flyers stay poised, their offensive depth should win it. Philadelphia in five.

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