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STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

Western Conference Finals

May 15, 1997|HELENE ELLIOTT

COLORADO AVALANCHE vs. DETROIT RED WINGS

Seedings, records: No. 1 Colorado (49-24-9); No. 3 Detroit (38-26-18).

Season series: Colorado, 3-1.

Top scorers: Colorado--Peter Forsberg 28 goals, 58 assists, 86 points. Detroit--Brendan Shanahan 47-41--88.

Team goals-against: Colorado 2.47 (fifth). Detroit 2.35 (second).

Power play: Colorado 20.6% (third). Detroit 17.9% (seventh).

Penalty killing: Colorado 87.6% (second). Detroit 86.7% (fourth).

How they advanced: Colorado defeated Chicago in six games and Edmonton in five. Detroit defeated St. Louis in six and Mighty Ducks in four.

Top playoff scorers: Colorado--Claude Lemieux 10-9--19. Detroit--Shanahan 4-5--9.

Playoff goals-against average: Colorado 2.14. Detroit 1.76.

Playoff power play: Colorado 28.8%. Detroit 14.8%.

Playoff penalty killing: Colorado 93.8%. Detroit 81.3%.

Keys: Emotions will run high because of last year's nasty conference finals, won by Colorado in an upset. But both teams must resist taking bad penalties. That's especially true for the Avalanche because penalty-killer Stephane Yelle is sidelined because of knee surgery. The Avalanche was burned by the Oilers' speed in the second round, and its defense could have trouble with the Red Wings' Russian Five and wingers Kirk Maltby and Doug Brown. But Colorado will be strengthened by the return of center Peter Forsberg, who sat out two games because of a concussion. The Red Wings showed grit in winning four close games from the Ducks in the second round and manufacturing "garbage goals" in the first round against St. Louis. They're nastier, bigger and better balanced than a year ago and they're injury-free--unlike Colorado, which also lacks winger Keith Jones (knee) and defenseman Uwe Krupp (back surgery). The Avalanche for the first time must face the pressure of being the prey, not the hunter. On Colorado's side: an offense that's more explosive than Detroit's. Goaltender Mike Vernon has played well for Detroit, but Patrick Roy is the best clutch-time goalie in the NHL. Colorado in seven if Roy is on his game. If not, the Red Wings will grab this in six.

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